2020 Recipients

William Kwok, Graduate Student in Political Science

How do local subordinates carry out leaders’ orders for mass killings, and when and where do they do so? What accounts for participation in mass killings? I address these questions through a comparative study of the political organization of mass killings. I make the case that across genocides initial orders are ambiguous: ranging from “fragmented,” “vague,” “coded,” “incomplete,” “optional,” to “exemplary” orders. Yet local commanders in certain areas interpret this ambiguity towards mass violence, whereas those in other localities participate only once the killings have spread. My theory predicts that when central leaders’ orders are ambiguous and where
center-local coordination is low, ambitious local commanders initiate entrepreneurial forms of violence to implement the goals of higher-ups and to thereby advance their own individual interests, generating a cascade of mass killings. Existing studies mostly focus on the “top.” I focus on a neglected factor—organizational dynamics. In doing so, I advance the debate from the macrolevel to include the subnational, introducing a novel multilevel focus on the political organization of mass killings that connects ideas at the top with the multitude of actors on the ground. By identifying the factors that drive the onset and spread of genocidal violence, my project enables a more contextualized approach to preventing or mitigating violence that might emerge from antisemitism and other enmities. By examining antisemitism from a comparative perspective, my study illuminates how and why commonalities (and differences) in forms of enmity impact the political machinery of genocides. I contribute to scholarship and policy on antisemitic and intergroup violence through an original dataset of commands and violent responses in several key cases; a new framework for disaggregating wartime policy into distinct types of commands for violence; and identification of the unit hierarchies that generate participation in violence. My empirical strategy consists of three parts combining archival work, computational content analysis, and interviews: a multilevel study of Cambodia; a crossnational analysis of genocides in Cambodia (1975–79), Indonesia (1965–66), and Myanmar (2012–); and an “out-of-sample” analysis of Nazi Germany on the Eastern Front (1941– 45) to assess the generalizability of my theory. I am applying for the Baron Student Research Grant to remotely complete document collection and interview former combatants during May–September 2020.

Eden Mendelsohn, Undergraduate Student, 2021

With the help of the Salo W. and Jeannette M. Baron Student Research Grant, I plan to produce a production of The Merchant of Venice, specifically delving into the play in the context of Jewish History, Culture, and Anti-Semitism. By creating a performance deeply guided by Jewish History and the Yiddish Theater, I hope to use interdisciplinary collaboration to explore the historical perception of Jews and utilize theater as a medium through which to encourage the public’s understanding of Anti-Semitism across disciplines and time. I plan to adapt the original Shakespearean text, contextualize the piece through research about Anti-Semitism, and use excerpts and inspiration from the Yiddish productions of The Merchant of Venice. Instead of leaning into the universality of Shylock, I wish to utilize Jewish background in order to add a new layer of authenticity to The Merchant of Venice.  By doing so, I hope to develop a version of Shylock that is most true to the Jewish experience and most parallel to Jewish societal positionality through the generations. In a time when Anti-Semitic attacks in America have unfortunately spiked, I find it meaningful to fully embrace The Merchant of Venice as the Yiddish stage did, and explore theater as a key communicator in society and an incredible mode through which to help people understand and empathize with those unlike them.