Anna Zhang Receives the 2022 Gabriel A. Almond Award

The Gabriel A. Almond Award is presented annually by the American Political Science Association (APSA) to honor the best doctoral dissertation in the field of comparative politics.

Anna’s dissertation demonstrates how governments project political power to the frontiers through internal migration. She uses data gathered from historical sources and interviews conducted during her ethnographic fieldwork in China.

Citation from Award Committee

“Go West, Young Han: Internal Migration as a Strategy of Counterinsurgency” by Anna Zhang is motivated by the question of how states can reduce counterinsurgency.  It develops a theory that states can do this by delegating authority to a multi-dimensional agent and tests it in the context of China’s peripheral regions, and specifically the Muslim insurgency in Xinjiang since 1949, by looking at the multi-functional agent devised by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)—the bingtuan—an agency with the dual function of an armed force and self-sufficient food production through land reclamation.  The dissertation exploits cross-regional variation in the size and strength of the bingtuan to explore their effect.

In addition to careful theorizing, consideration of alternative explanations and generalizability beyond the case studied, the dissertation stands out because of its impressive original data collection and analysis efforts.  The dissertation relies on a near-complete collection of 550 historical gazetteers published by the bigtuan, which record local history and highlight accomplishments of the state, as well as information collected through interviews and memoirs during 12-months of ethnographic fieldwork, and also draws on a range of secondary sources.

In sum, this dissertation exemplifies the highest quality of dissertations and is most deserving of the Gabriel A. Almond Award for Best Dissertation in Comparative Politics.  The theory is carefully developed and reflects a deep understanding of the extant literature, the methods used are varied, innovative, and sophisticated, and the knowledge of the case at hand is unrivaled. In addition, the findings have important implications for understanding how states can manage insurgency through delegation to a single multifunctional agency.

APSA thanks the committee members for their service: Professor Jae-Jae Spoon (chair) of the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Aurel S. Croissant of the University Heidelberg, and Milli Lake of the London School of Economics.


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