2009 Research Grants


In 2009 the United States Studies Centre awarded research grants totalling $100,000 for ten projects on a wide range of topics in the humanities and social sciences by academics from nine Australian universities.

The chief executive of the US Studies Centre, Professor Geoffrey Garrett said the quality and breadth of all the research proposals was very impressive.

"Receiving ninety applications for the Centre's inaugural round of research grants is testimony to the great interest in the United States among Australian academics and the high quality of research they are engaging in", he said.

Professor Garrett said he was also particularly impressed by the quality of the American collaborators in some of the proposals.

Research grants were awarded to:

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Megan Blaxland - Care, Employment and Social Policy in Australia and the USA.

Blaxland, Brennan & CassBroad brush analyses of welfare typically bracket Australia and the USA as 'liberal' welfare states. More nuanced analyses show that 'liberalism' is a complex category, that orientations to family, market and state are profoundly different in the two countries, and that political traditions and institutional configurations in Australia and the USA have lead to distinctive welfare outcomes.

Scholarly comparative analyses of Australian and US social policy is surprisingly uncommon, although such comparisons seem to intrigue both policy-makers and the public. An example of such interest at the policy level is the Australian government's commissioning of econometric modelling of US 'welfare to work' reforms applied to the Australian population. In popular debate it is has recently been asserted that 'Australia and the United States are the only two OECD countries that do not offer paid maternity leave'. It is our contention that Australian policy makers and media commentators frequently misunderstand US social policy and especially the concept of 'welfare'.

 We are developing comparative analyses of policies towards sole/single parents and policies surrounding family leave in each country. The conceptual link between these areas is that both are concerned with paid or unpaid periods of absence from employment for purposes of caring for young children and other vulnerable family members. This will involve in-depth policy research in each of these areas in order to identify: policy developments (1996-2008) in each country; similarities and differences in these policy developments; the political rationales for their introduction; and the outcomes as shown in the scholarly literature.

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Dr. Frances M. Clarke: Dear Father Abraham: Remaking Citizenship in Civil War America.

This project sets out to chart the effects of the American Civil War on ordinary peoples' understandings of the rights and obligations of citizenship. It starts with the widely held belief that this conflict is America's greatest watershed, out of which a modern nation state emerged. According to a wealth of scholarship, the Civil War gave birth to a new kind of nationalism, defined by a triumphant North that now held the weight of political power.

Rising above their pre-war identities-rooted in local attachments, partisanship, and self-interest-Northerners allegedly joined in embracing what one historian calls a "transcendent patriotism" that relied on the compelling symbols and rituals developed during the war. Imagining a shared history, they came to feel a much more emotional connection to the nation-state, now conceived as an organic and thus indissoluble entity, not merely the result of a contract between sovereign states. This textbook version of American history has never been tested on a broad scale. Although there is a wealth of studies charting the Civil War's impact on constitutional interpretation, laws and legislation, or the formal political realm, there is currently no study focusing specifically on how the war reshaped the political understandings of ordinary people.

Dr Clarke will examine this question by concentrating on citizens' tangible dealings with the federal government, utilizing an unexplored archive of tens of thousands of letters sent to president Abraham Lincoln and other government officials during the war. Using these unique sources, Dr Clarke will start by looking at how ordinary people framed their appeals and demands, as well as the way they represented themselves to federal officials. After following particular cases in depth, Clarke will then work to demonstrate the ways ordinary people affected federal decision-making, contributing to the creation of the world's first welfare state.

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Dr Paul Collits: The US Heartland States - Economy, Demography, Culture, Governance 

Much of the analysis of "small town America" focuses on values, politics and the culture wars.  Yet the important story about the Great Plains States is the region's survival in the face of obstacles - obstacles also faced by many Australian rural regions.  These include population decline in many counties, youth out-migration, the impact of globalisation, the future role of agriculture, and the sources of future economic development.  US heartland regions also have particular histories, governance structures and cultures that frame the way they respond to the challenges they face, including an entrepreneurial culture and communities built on social cohesion. 

There are lessons here for Australian rural communities, and the potential for two-way learning across the two countries.

Dr Collits will host a small conference be held in rural Australia in the first half of 2009, with visiting US scholars, to share experiences and develop proposals for collaborative research on the future of US and Australian "heartland regions".  Australian scholars with an interest in rural community futures will be invited to present papers at the conference.  

It is planned that a seminar also be held in Sydney to consider economic, demographic, cultural and governance trends and issues in the "red States", also featuring the invited US speakers. 

A book featuring case studies from both countries is planned to be published, and proposals for further joint research will be developed."

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Professor Don DeBats: The Political Worlds of Nineteenth Century Virginia

Before the Civil War, Virginia was one of the several places in North American adhering to the British practice of oral or viva voce voting. For the first half of 2009, Professor DeBats will be at the University of Virginia as a Research Fellow with the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities working on two Virginia communities where good runs of poll records survive -- the city of Alexandria on the eve of the War and the County of Southampton in the era of the Nat Turner slave rebellion.  

The system of oral voting required written poll books as a definitive record of who voted for whom, but these unique records can be used to reveal far more than that.  Linking individual social information to individual political records produces unsurpassed social profiles of past voters - and non-voters, places political life squarely in its social context, and reveals more about the nineteenth century political world than we can discover about politics in our own times. The two case studies will help clarify the reach and meaning of political engagement for ordinary citizens at critical moments in the American past.

Professor DeBats will also work with the University of Virginia's Center for Digital History with the goal of creating a major new interactive website in the field of nineteenth century American history. Alexandria - a commercial slave-owning city - will be paired with Newport, Kentucky - an immigrant and industrial city that is another of Professor DeBats' poll book projects.  These are the only individually mapped nineteenth century American cities and Professor DeBats hopes his "Tale of Two Cities" story will become the urban equivalent of the renowned "Valley of the Shadow" project, also created at the Center for Digital History.

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Professor Cliff Goddard - American English and Australian English

Dr Cliff GoddardGeorge Bernard Shaw famously remarked that the Americans and the English are "two peoples divided by a common language". Much the same could be said about Americans and Australians. Along with the important overlaps in values, language, and communication styles, there are also significant divergences between American English and Australian English - not only in vocabulary, but also in ways of speaking. The potential for miscommunication is real, and intertwined with national stereotypes and preconceptions. This study applies newly developed techniques of linguistic analysis to identify these communication style differences, and, just as importantly, to explain them from the point of view of the cultural insider.

The study will focus on two domains: self-presentation, i.e. expressions of achievement, ambition, confidence, self-deprecation, modesty, self-disclosure, and the like; and humour styles, with a special focus on Australians' unusual fondness for jocular irony, sarcasm, and negativity. To both domains, I will apply linguistic techniques of semantic and cultural analysis. The semantic analysis will focus on the meanings, uses and frequencies of certain key words and phrases, such as (for American English) dream, hero, and great, and (for Australian English) taking the piss, a bit, and bloody. The cultural analysis uses a method known as "cultural scripts". These are statements, phrased in simple ordinary words, that can capture shared insider understandings about valued ways of speaking. The study aims to shed light on the ways in which routine ways of speaking are linked in subtle ways to social attitudes and values.

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Dr Ben Goldsmith and Dr Yusaku Horiuchi - Global Public Opinion and US Foreign Policy: Trends over time and soft-power consequences

Goldsmith & HoriuchiThis project will research the relationship between global public opinion and U.S. foreign policy.This research is part of a broader research program that Goldsmith and Horiuchi have been pursuing since 2002.

This research grant will allow Goldsmith and Horiuchi to produce two papers.

The first of which explores patterns in the large amount of data on international public opinion about U.S. foreign policy. Current research will step back from previous detailed exploration on certain topics (such as support for the wars in Afghanistan & Iraq the effects of public diplomacy) and examine some bigger-picture trends and dynamics.

The second paper has the tentative title: "In Search of Soft Power." The aim will be to test whether there is any systematic evidence that "soft power" (Nye 2004) - more specifically, how foreign publics view the U.S. and its foreign policy - really matters for U.S. foreign policy.

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Dr Barbara Keys: The Human Rights Revolution in the US: Forging a new foreign policy in the 1970s

This project examines the origins of the human-rights diplomacy that emerged in the United States in the 1970s, a revolutionary transformation in the making of U.S. foreign policy that for the first time linked foreign aid and trade not just to tangible security and economic interests but also to human-rights concerns.  

This study will be the first to examine the causes of this remarkable development, looking in detail at the influence of the civil rights movement, religious groups spurred by Vatican II, conservative opposition to détente, the antiwar movement, the rise of nongovernmental organizations, and international opinion.

Drawing on the literature on emotions in social movements and on psychological studies of cognition and emotion, the project pays particular attention to the emotional currents that shaped new forms of empathy toward foreigners suffering government-sponsored repression.


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Dr Shu Fan:  Demand Response in the Electricity Markets of the United States

Electric power industries around the world have been deregulated and restructured from vertically integrated mechanisms to open market systems for higher efficiency and maximization of social welfare. The restructuring of electricity markets has also been accompanied by numerous problems, including generation capacity shortages, transmission congestion, wholesale price volatility, and reduced system reliability. These problems have created significant new opportunities for technologies and business approaches that allow load serving entities and other aggregators, to control and manage the load patterns of their wholesale or retail end-users. These technologies and business approaches for manipulating end-user load shapes are known as Load Management or, more recently, Demand Responsive (DR) programs.

This proposal aims to study and understand the demand response in the electricity market of the United States, since the electric utilities in the United States are taking the lead in electricity market deregulation and demand response implementation. We will focus on two aspects of electric demand responses: retail pricing tariffs and incentive-based demand response programs. Understanding and reconciling these two perspectives is crucial to characterizing and valuing demand response as well as recognizing its limitations. The results will be valuable for policy makers in developing effective demand response programs for Australian electricity market.

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Associate Professor Jacqueline Peel:  Californian Climate Change Law - Lessons for Australia

In recent times, climate change has come of age as an issue of significant public concern, both nationally and internationally. Enormous policy and legal developments are occurring in the field. In Australia this includes national policy proposals regarding an emissions trading scheme and renewable energy measures, State-based activities to develop carbon trading schemes, and high-profile climate change litigation.                  

Rapid policy and legal development is also taking place in some areas of the US, with the State of California emerging as a clear leader in climate change law and policy. The Californian government has implemented an aggressive regulatory program to promote renewable energy generation and enacted landmark legislation establishing a comprehensive system of regulatory and market mechanisms designed to achieve cost-effective reduction of greenhouse emissions. California has also been the site of innovative climate change law suits seeking to force large greenhouse polluters, like car manufacturers and coal-fired power generators, to pay for pollution that their products cause. Consequently, Californian legal developments and experience with respect to climate change have much to offer in designing an effective, legal response to the problem here in Australia. 

Accordingly, this project involves a detailed assessment of Californian climate change law and regulation with a view to drawing out lessons for the design and implementation of climate change law in Australia. The research will focus particularly on areas of similarity or common challenges for the Californian and Australian regimes, such as the design of emissions trading schemes, renewable energy measures and climate change litigation.

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Dr Louise Watson - Federal / State Relations in US Education Policy

Dr Louise WatsonSince an American President cast doubt on the quality of American schooling with the release of A Nation at Risk (1983), three successive US Federal administrations have implemented policies to promote school reform. These interventions have been wide-ranging in scope, targeting areas such as the quality of teachers and teacher education, standards-based assessment, competition and school choice, new funding models and accountability regimes, privatization and devolution, and the introduction of a national private tutoring scheme. Yet in developing their policy reform agendas for schools, each Federal Administration has faced a series of challenges arising from the Federal/State division of responsibilities under the United States constitution.

This research will identify the major federal school reform agendas of the past twenty-five years and discuss the dynamics of US Federal/State relations that have come into play when these policy initiatives were introduced.  The project will investigate the impact of Federal/State relations on the development and implementation of national education policies in the USA.


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