Professor Kelly Greenhill awarded National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship

Associate Professor of Political Science Kelly Greenhill speaks during a faculty panel on Trump's proposed policies in the Terrace Room on Dec. 1, 2016. (Nicholas Pfosi / The Tufts Daily)

Associate Professor of Political Science Kelly Greenhill, who specializes in international relations, was awarded a fellowship by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in December 2016 to finish research for her ongoing book, “Extra-Factual Sources of Threat Conception and Proliferation in International Politics.” Through this fellowship, Greenhill will continue her research on the ways in which governments and individuals perceive military and political threats.

Greenhill will be on research leave through the end of 2017 to finish her book, which is slated to be released soon after.

“The NEH Fellowship provides me with time and resources to finish writing the book. I am truly honored and humbled to have been granted one of these rare and very competitive awards,” Greenhill told the Daily in an email.

Established in 1965, the NEH is a national federal agency that works to support work in the humanities by awarding grants to research projects and other initiatives. According to the NEH’s website, these fellowships “support individuals pursuing advanced research that is of value to humanities scholars, general audiences, or both.”

Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science Deborah Schildkraut said this fellowship is unusual in the length of its duration, adding that she sees it as a notable accomplishment given the current uncertainty of federal research funding under the new presidential administration.

“I can’t think of a time in our department where someone has gotten a full semester fellowship from the National Endowment [for the] Humanities,” she said. “Also, in our uncertain political time, it’s unclear what the funding landscape will look like for arts and humanities and social sciences … so anytime someone is able to get federal funding for this type of work is a real mark of success.”

While there are many sources of funding for medical sciences, the health sciences and engineering, according to Schildkraut, fellowships in the social sciences and humanities are rarer.

“The value of any fellowship in our line of work is the time she will have to really focus on getting her book out, which I know will reach a wide audience,” Schildkraut said.

In Greenhill’s upcoming book, she will explore several historical and international examples that illustrate the means by which information can be manipulated for political purposes.

Drawing from public opinion survey research, the book incorporates case studies from the late 19th century to today, with a specific focus on incidents that took place in Western Europe, Russia and the United States, according to Greenhill. She added that the book draws from much of her past research and interests.

“I have long been interested in both threat inflation and manipulation and the politics of information — themes I explored in two of my earlier books, namely, ‘Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced Displacement, Coercion’ and ‘Foreign Policy and Sex, Drugs and Body Counts: The Politics of Numbers in Global Crime and Conflict,’ respectively,” Greenhill said. “[My current book] represents a marriage of long-standing interests and a natural extension and expansion of my previous research.”

Greenhill has expertise in international relations and security studies and serves as a research fellow for the International Security Program at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center.

Senior Nia Hamilton said that she took Introduction to International Relations with Greenhill in the spring 2014. She remembered Greenhill as a professor knowledgable in her field and admired for her work outside of the classroom.

“Her research was huge talk in our class, especially among the [teaching assistants (TAs)]. I remember a lot of the TAs were interested in aligning themselves with her research just because she seemed to be a huge force in [international relations] writing in general,” Hamilton, who studies international relations, said.

“Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced Displacement, Coercion and Foreign Policy” was recognized as the International Studies Association’s Best Book of the Year in 2011. 

Greenhill began working on her current project before the controversy surrounding the role that “fake news” may have played in the 2016 presidential election. While Greenhill’s research does not specifically focus on “fake news,” it takes into account “extra-factual sources of information” and their effects.

“I started working on this book more than six years ago, long before anyone had any sense of what the 2016 election dynamic would look like. However, the recent resurgent interest in “fake news” as a result of the election certainly highlights the continued relevance and significance of the topic,” Greenhill said.

Schildkraut also drew a distinction between the “fake news” that has been so visible in the recent presidential election and the type of misinformation on the international scale that Greenhill is researching.

“It’s been a long process in American politics of declining trust in the media and proliferation of news outlets where people can choose to see news that aligns with their political views, but also where people can opt out of seeing the news altogether,” Schildkraut said. “And you see that with the invention and spread of social media where people may have incidental exposure to news [of which] they don’t know much about the credibility.”

 Schildkraut added that Greenhill’s research is relevant to domestic politics despite that she focuses on international relations.

“I think her work is going to be useful for thinking about how to make sense of the very uncertain time we are experiencing here at home,” Schildkraut said. “Understanding the types of questions that Professor Greenhill is studying or any of the work we do in the social sciences also has real consequences for people’s sense of place and the way people form their identities. [This] can be very consequential for the political choices that they make, which ultimately affect policy outcomes.”

Aside from Greenhill’s research, Hamilton also admired Greenhill for her expertise and prominence in the international relations community, which will now be furthered through her NEH fellowship.

“I found that really inspiring, especially as a woman,” Hamilton said. “I felt that she handled this subject so well that I was determined to get it myself.”