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Harrison Akins, BC Graduate Research Fellow

To help us with our research initiatives and assist students in their future careers, we host several Baker Center Graduate Research Fellows. Harrison Akins, is a PhD candidate in Political Science and one of our fellows. In the following paragraphs, you get a glimpse into the work of the next generation of global security researchers and the benefits the Baker Center provides through its programs, experts and research efforts. We also think you will be impressed with the level of work being undertaken by these scholars. Harrison reports on his research efforts to his supervisor and mentor, Dr. Krista Wiegand, Baker Faculty Fellow in Global Security. akins.2016

Research Activities

I have been working on completing a first draft of my paper with early statistical analysis examining the impact of elite capture on terrorism from minority ethnic groups. As I was developing the paper over the semester, its theory and model were greatly helped by being able to engage with other graduate research fellows, particularly Aaron Gold who recommended readings and data sources/measurements to use for my model.

I have also begun work on a project with Mehdi Ayari examining, within the Muslim world, the outcome of elections when there are multiple religious political parties as opposed to only one religious party participating in the election. This project will examine whether having multiple religious parties spoils the chances of any of them having significant electoral victories.

I am also continuing to read the terrorism/foreign policy literature and work on my initial research design for my dissertation idea–examining the impact of US foreign policy and the War on Terror on foreign governments’ policies towards terrorism within their borders and the resulting increase in domestic terrorism. In regards to my cross field concentration (CFC) in public policy, I have begun to develop the policy section of this project as the idea for my CFC paper, examining how US policies to combat terrorism are used as policy signaling to other states. To this end, I have written an early draft laying out ideas for the theory and beginning to place it within the relevant literature.


Over the past semester, I have written a number of articles for the media using my affiliation with the Baker Center in my byline, which have been widely disseminated and read, such as my recent India Times article shared almost 20,000 times. Please find the links to these below:

Why a Trump Presidency Will Be Damaging to the US-India Relationship, India Times, November 7, 2016

“Trump and Hindu Nationalism: America’s Modi,” Huffington Post, October 31, 2016

“Cutting the study of Islam a mistake,” Knoxville News-Sentinel, October 2, 2016

“Why the Appointment of Kofi Annan to Myanmar’s Advisory Commission on Rakhine State is Important,” Huffington Post, September 1, 2016
In addition, I was recently commissioned by the BBC to write an article about Lucknow, India, where I spent Summer 2016 studying Urdu, and how Lucknow has been able to avoid any major Hindu-Muslim rioting. I have been working with the BBC editors over the past three weeks refining my article to their specifications and it was just posted

Given my interest in policy and policy-relevant research, I also was invited to join the Scholars Strategy Network by the Tennessee chapter head, Dr. Nathan Kelly, with my membership being finalized in October. Below is the link to my first SSN policy brief about the dissemination of drones.
“U.S. Drone Tactics and Global Precedents in the Fight Against Terror,” SSN Policy Brief, October 2016


Moving Forward

Moving forward, I hope to continue to work on my various papers and projects in preparation for presenting them at conferences and submitting them for eventual publication. Over winter break, I will first work to expand the data set for my paper on elite capture and terrorism and finish the data analysis. I will re-work the paper, in light of your very helpful comments, in preparation for presenting it at MPSA in April. If you feel it is appropriate, I would also be interested in presenting the paper at one of the Global Security Research Seminars in the Spring 2017 semester.

I will also begin working on a Baker Center White Paper examining how drones have been dispersed around the world to fight against terrorist groups. Outside of US use and the legal and human rights concerns, much of the policy focus has been on the spread of drone technology, especially as Chinese drone technology has become widely available. I am proposing to study how other countries are using their drones, whether they are merely substituting or supplementing conventional air power in on-going military campaigns or if drones present new types of air campaigns reflective of how the US has conducted its own drone warfare.

I also submitted my application to the US State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship to study Urdu in Lucknow, India at a higher skill level during Summer 2017. If I receive this scholarship for a second time, I will use this opportunity to both try to attain Advanced level Urdu (I now speak Intermediate-Mid Urdu according to my recent OPI exam) and to conduct fieldwork in India for a paper/article on the politics of the cow as a case study of how Hindu religious symbols have been used as a means of political subjugation of minority groups, such as Muslims and Dalits, especially under Modi’s BJP government.

In regards to writing for the media, I will continue to regularly engage with editors I know and follow various news events which I have the expertise to comment on, submitting articles when I feel my voice will contribute a new perspective.

I also will continue to attend and contribute to Baker Center programming and utilize the workspace allotted me in the Baker Center to engage with the other research fellows on our respective work.

Harrison Akins
PhD Candidate in Political Science &
Graduate Research Fellow

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