By Joe Young
Thomas Ricks recently opined in a Foreign Policy piece how irrelevant most of political science scholarship is and by implication how irrelevant we are. He neatly asks why those who study international security are so boring? While I have a slight desire to reenact the scene from Goodfellas with Mr. Ricks, I will humbly instead suggest the following.
What is the goal of Political Violence @ a Glance? When Erica Chenoweth and Barbara Walter pitched potential contributors to be involved several years ago, they suggested an avenue for making our scholarship more relevant to current issues, the public, and policymakers. They, like many other political scientists, want to be speaking to folks beyond our own community. Sometimes we (or at least I) don’t accomplish this goal. Sometimes our work is jargony. Sometimes it is technical. Sometimes the topics seem abstract. As anyone who has been involved in a community of people working on a big problem (government workers, managers, marketers, engineers, social workers, etc.) knows, we develop our own language and sometimes shut others out.
With this preface, I suggest efforts like Political Violence @ Glance are a way to make a small move beyond these divides. Rather than just claim our work is relevant, we try to apply it to ISIS, or to the conflict in Ukraine, or discuss how it might inform peacekeeping. This is just a small snippet. Steve Saideman does a more thorough job of walking through instances of relevance on Ricks’ blog.
Mr. Ricks recently gave us a lighthearted look at a confederate soldier with his dog during the US civil war. Not boring, but I suggest we can do better and with more contemporary relevance. I give you cats during the Syrian civil war. Enjoy.