2013. North Korea & the UN Security Council: Action, Reaction, Trust, and Mistrust

This study attempts to better understand the recent history of the relationship between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the United Nations Security Council by analyzing four different episodes in the relationship in depth. It then uses these analyses to infer recurrent trends in this relationship, so that we may get a better idea of what to expect from the DPRK in the near future. Since research shows that in the absence of some form of common ground between international actors lasting disarmament is not likely to be achieved, the report pays particular attention to levels of “trust” in this relationship.

By using an original methodology that combines a quantitative evaluation of the levels of mutual trust with a qualitative examination of the social and geopolitical context, we are able to identify what circumstances contribute to better relations and what circumstances do not. The study comes to the following conclusions and recommendations. First, it is not uncommon for Security Council resolutions to be utilized by the DPRK to reach some kind of strategic objective of its own. In particular, the DPRK has been successfully provoking the Security Council with weapons proliferation in order to (a) play the great powers against each other, (b) gain the upper hand in negotiating with the US and Japan, (c) portray itself as the legitimate defender of the Korean people, North and South, and (d) test the attitude of the international community, particularly the US, toward itself. Whenever any of this occurs, the level of mutual trust rapidly decreases.

Second, there is a case to be made that the Security Council should remove itself as an instrument of the DPRK’s foreign policy strategy. That is, whenever it becomes obvious that the DPRK is attempting to take advantage of a Security Council reaction, the Security Council should perhaps respond in a less predictable, scripted manner. One way to achieve this could be by relying more on technical provisions and less on media-ready public statements. We also find that every time Security Council resolutions respond to the long-term strategic interests of the larger regional players, periods of relative calm ensue. In particular, any arrangement that (a) allowed China to use the DPRK to further its role as a major stakeholder in the region or (b) allowed the US to use the DPRK to advance the case for its continued military presence in Japan and South Korea would, quite ironically, increase the level of mutual trust between the DPRK and the Security Council. Arrangements (a) and (b) are not necessarily in contradiction.

Security Council policymakers may thus want to consider that the more a provision caters to the interests of all the major local and regional players—and not just those of the DPRK—the more trust is increased in a sustainable way, and the higher the chances that the region ceases to be a problem for the international community in the near future.

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2019. The relationship between influential actors’ language and violence: A Kenyan case study using artificial intelligence

Scholarly work addressing the drivers of violent conflict predominantly focus on macro-level factors, often surrounding social group-specific grievances relating to access to power, justice, security, services, land, and resources. Recent work identifies these factors of risk and their heightened risk during shocks, such as a natural disaster or significant economic adjustment. What we know little about is the role played by influential actors in mobilising people towards or away from violence during such episodes. We hypothesise that influential actors’ language indicates their intent towards or away from violence. Much work has been done to identify what constitutes hostile vernacular in political systems prone to violence, however, it has not considered the language of specific influential actors. Our methodology targeting this knowledge gap employs a suite of third party software tools to collect and analyse 6,100 Kenyan social media (Twitter) utterances from January 2012 to December 2017. This software reads and understands words’ meaning in multiple languages to allocate sentiment scores using a technology called Natural Language Processing (NLP). The proprietary NLP software, which incorporates the latest artificial intelligence advances, including deep learning, transforms unstructured textual data (i.e. a tweet or blog post) into structured data (i.e. a number) to gauge the authors’ changing emotional tone over time.

Our model predicts both increases and decreases in average fatalities 50 to 150 days in advance, with overall accuracy approaching 85%. This finding suggests a role for influential actors in determining increases or  decreases in violence and the method’s potential for advancing understandings of violence and language. Further, the findings demonstrate the utility of local political and sociological theoretical knowledge for  calibrating algorithmic analysis. This approach may enable identification of specific speech configurations associated with an increased or decreased risk of violence. We propose further exploration of this methodology.

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2011. A Study in Anthropology: The Anti-globalization Movement and the City of Naples. Journal of Mediterranean Studies, 13/1: 121-155.

From September 2002 to July 2003 I conducted fieldwork amongst anti-globalization protestors in Naples, Italy. At the time, anti-globalization ideals and stances were articulated through a large and dynamic protest movement. Young protestors expressed their dissatisfaction with the neo-liberal economic policies of institutions such as the World Banks, the World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund through various activist groups and mass gatherings. In addition to protesting economic globalization, protestors also demanded the dropping of ‘third world debt’, sought to fight environmental degradation and pushed for the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples amongst other things.


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2011. Aesthetic Surgery and Social Change in South Korea. Korean Cultural Anthropology, 44/2: 359-389.

The intention of this paper is to set out some possible research directions for an ethnographic study of aesthetic surgery in South Korea. To do this, I advance an initial hypothesis: that changes on the body somehow reflect the broader social changes occurring in South Korean society. Does the relative popularity of aesthetic surgery amongst South Korean women reveal an ``ideology of the possible``, in which anything and everything is subject to change, renewal, amelioration? What is the nature and significance of such an ideology, and what are the implications for the way women view and manage their bodies?


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2011. Experiences of State, Family and Body amongst North Korean Defectors Living in Seoul. Journal of Northeast Asian Cultures, 26/1: 579-600.

The Talbukja, a term used to denote ‘escape from the north’, interviewed in this paper have all fled their rural towns along the Tumen river in north-eastern North Korea to find themselves in Seoul, South Korea, one of the most dynamic megacities in the world. What is their view of this change? Do they incur any physical discomfort? How would they describe their relationship with their new surroundings?
To explore these aspects, the methodology involved conducting qualitative interviews with questions pertaining to the five senses. I asked questions such as what sights stand out in Seoul, what sounds are new or different, what tastes and what smells do you like or dislike? From these cue questions, the interviewee would then take the discussion in different directions, freely making associations to his or her personal like and experience as a refugee.


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2012. Italian Labor Market Reform: An Appraisal of the 2003 Biagi Law. Mediterranean Review, 5/1: 21-44.

This article looks at the major historical developments in the Italian labor market, with specific attention given to the ‘Biagi Law’ that attempted to reform it in 2003. The name refers to Professor Marco Biagi, who was advising the government on the reforms at the time. The article will explore whether the objectives of the reforms were eventually achieved. This question will be addressed using an historical-descriptive methodology that focuses on the social and political context. The article concludes that the Biagi Law is only part of a much longer reform process that has been unfolding since at least the mid-1980s. This process is nowhere near completion today, and, especially in the case of the Biagi Law, has met with much resistance from state and non-state actors. The article uses data on unemployment figures in Italy and in the OECD in the decade from 2000 to 2010.


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2013. Antonio Gramsci’s Political Philosophy and European Integration: A Review of Competing Perspectives in Contemporary Italy. Mediterranean Review, 6/2: 91-113.

This paper reviews competing contemporary perspectives on the political philosophy of Antonio Gramsci and relates them to the analysis of European integration today. The first part of the paper looks at the different conceptualizations of Gramsci`s thought as set out by two contemporary Gramsci experts in Italy, Marcello Montanari and Francesca Izzo. The second part of the paper considers which of the competing perspectives may be best suited for understanding the current political situation in Europe, and concludes that Montanari`s conceptualization is more relevant to this task. That conceptualization is then used to critically assess the current state of European integration; and, in particular, the role of member state governments, the emphasis on economic integration, and the preeminence of centralized institutions in directing the process of integration.

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2014. A Review of the Chinese, Russian, US and EU Strategies in the Korean Peninsula from 2006-2012, Journal of Northeast Asian Studies, 71/1: 323-346.

This study will look at the strategic relationships between China, Russia, the US and the EU as they relate to the Korean Peninsula, and at the rising and falling levels of trust between them. It is necessary, therefore, to start by defining more precisely what is meant by the term trust.This is a vague concept, as there are multiple ways of conceiving it. Nevertheless, if we are to accurately measure the level of trust between the different international actors in relation to the Korean Peninsula then we must find a way of defining it. In the field of International Relations, the existence of trust among two or more actors indicates “a willingness to take risks on the behavior of others based on the belief that potential trustees will do what is right.”
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2014. A Review of the Social, Cultural, Political and Economic Dimensions of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Island Dispute, with Betty Chemier. Journal of Northeast Asian Cultures, 39/1: 491-514.

This research will analyze the Senkaku/Diaoyu situation by looking at the relationship between the economic, political, social and cultural aspects of the dispute. The methodology used will be a review of various American, Japanese, Chinese and Korean authors that have written on the dispute. This literature review will allow us a more accurate assessment of the economic, political, social and cultural phenomena that influence the territorial dispute. Finally, this paper will contribute to the literature on the dispute through a discussion on the relationship that exists between the different dimensions, and particularly how each dimension influences the other. Economically, the expected reward is the oil and gas that is believed to be in the disputed area. However, we also find that as tensions over the islands rise, trade relations between the two countries are negatively affected. The need to preserve the economic benefits of trade stops the conflict from ever escalating beyond a certain point. The political relationship has been following a similar dynamic. Despite the use of acrimonious rhetoric, both countries proved willing to co-operate politically whenever the long term relationship was at risk. This leads us to conclude that the bilateral political relationship is largely at the service of the economic and trade relationship that exists between the countries. Yet, from this review, it is clear that what has most contributed to keeping the dispute alive are social and cultural factors and the impact they have on the domestic politics of both countries. Reviewing the economic and diplomatic aspects of the dispute, we often noted that patriotic sentiments have a strong impact on the development of events. The islands are a nationalistic symbol for conservatives in both countries, where politicians often use this symbol for their own domestic political advantages.

2014. Democratization and Good Governance in Myanmar/Burma, with Amit Arora. Journal of Corruption Studies, 19/1: 211-234.

This paper looks at the current changing dynamics of politics in Burma. The paper will investigate what steps have been taken to strengthen and foster its economic, political and civil society. The dramatic political  reforms occurring in Burma today, such as the new constitution and the recent elections, are the first tentative footsteps being taken toward democracy after more than 60 years of independence. We will seek to answer the question: what new doors of good governance are being opened for Burmese citizens? According to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, good governance is a governance ideal that is founded on 8 major characteristics.

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