The Helen Dwight Reid prize is awarded annually for the best dissertation successfully defended during the previous two years in the field of international relations, law, and politics.
Melissa Lee’s dissertation emphasizes how “bad neighborhoods” and hostile neighbors can explain divergences of gaps between formal sovereignty and effective statehood. It provides a novel theoretical approach to an important problem, demonstrated by the large differences in effective sovereignty and state strength in many territories, and highlights the important geopolitical context of domestic conflict and state failure. The thesis develops an innovative approach to measuring the notoriously difficult concept of state capacity, based on variation in the quality of demographic data. It combines insights from strong research designs at different geographical scales, including comparative sub-national analysis, a quasi-experiment on the effects of Thailand of the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, and archival material from Malaysia and the Philippines.
Special thanks to our committee Kristian Skrede Gleditsch (Chair), University of Essex; Susan Hyde, Yale University; Paul Poast, University of Chicago