Tag: introductions

Introducing myself

Hello, readers of the Duck!

Dan Nexon has very kindly invited me to do some guest blogging at this site.

Introducing myself in brief: I’m an Australian academic with an over-fondness for cigars. Working at King’s College London at the Defence Academy, as a Senior Lecturer in Defence Studies. In September I’ll be moving to Reading to take up a Readership in Strategic Studies.

My main interest these days is in the history and theory of US grand strategy, with an historian’s background but also in a dalliance with IR. I guess I quite like Strategic Studies as a kind of inter-disciplinary twilight world, with all its strengths and weaknesses.

For those still reading, I’ve got another blog called the Offshore Balancer:

After experimenting with blogging, its the academically focused ones with a soulful character and a sense of humour that I like the most, like this one.

Anyway, looking forward to writing here and hopefully living up to the high standards of the Duck.


Overdue introduction

We’re pleased to introduce a new guest blogger, PM, whose first post — on the contemporary field of International Political Economy (IPE) and the continuing financial crisis — appears just below. He should do an excellent job of improving our coverage of multiple facets of international politics, and we’re looking forward to his future contributions.


Hello, my name is ….

I wrote my college admissions essay to the University of Chicago about a very bad country song (the B-side to a single) called “The Cape,” by Kathy Mattea. It is about a boy who ties a flour sack around his neck as a cape, and keeps jumping off the roof of his house … he “did not know he could not fly, so he did.”

Despite often being guided by a disregard for and desire to abandon traditional order, I found myself incapable of making a substantive post without introducing myself.

So, I guess, first, the basics: my name is Laura Sjoberg. I recently turned 30. I seem to have survived it, despite many friends’ insistence on still calling me 19. I have done some moving around – I grew up in the “redneck Riviera” (Florida District 1, in and around Pensacola), went to college at the University of Chicago (“where fun comes to die”), went to grad school at the University of Southern California (to work Ann Tickner, the greatest advisor ever), went to law school at Boston College while a Harvard Postdoc (paying for it by working at Lee Volvo/Jaguar), then spent a year as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science at Duke while finishing law school at UNC (RTP: where football goes to die), before taking a tenure-track job at Virginia Tech (little known fact: full name is “Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University”) in the fall of 2007, which I am leaving for a post at the University of Florida starting this fall (who says you can’t go home?). I’m building a house there, I think it will stick.

My research: my work is broadly in the area of gender in international security. Currently, I am interested in questions of how gender dynamics influence systemic processes related to interstate conflict. In theory (and if my editor asks, in practice), I am currently writing a book called Gendering Global Conflict: Towards a Feminist Theory of War. I’ve done a fair amount of editing (most recently, a special issue of the journal Security Studies, as well as Gender and International Security: Feminist Perspectives and (with Amy Eckert) Rethinking the 21st Century: ‘New’ Problems, Old Solutions. Currently, I’m editing the Feminist Theory and Gender Studies Section of the International Studies Compendium. When I take time off of professional editing, my main research foci have been: feminist reinterpretations of theories of the causes and nature of war (see Gender, Justice, and the Wars in Iraq, as well as articles in International Studies Quarterly and International Politics) and feminist readings of women’s violence in global politics (including Mothers, Monsters, Whores: Women’s Violence in Global Politics (with Caron Gentry), and articles in International Relations and the Austrian Journal of Political Science). I’ve also (thanks mostly to Hayward Alker) dabbled in issues of methodology and potential interdisciplinary work in geography and IR (including an article in International Studies Review).

My hobbies: Florida Gator football (both of my parents are UF alum, I wore orange and blue diapers, my Chihuahuas wear gator shirts), Tampa Bay Bucs football (over/under on one win next season after firing everyone over 30 including the coach?), Lakers basketball (early guess: three-peat), fast cars (don’t currently own one), country music (mixed with a little bit of rap), model trains (there’s a room in my house dedicated to them), bridge, chihuahuas, cooking, making and framing large puzzles, bumper stickers (favorite: “talk nerdy to me”), theoretical math, scrabble, and, recently, getting yelled at by Wii Fit, ejecting it, and playing MarioKart instead. It seems I’ve also just picked up blogging …


Plenty of unwrapping to do

“I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.”

Russia observers love to trot out Churchill’s famous quote. In fact, people love to use this quote in all sorts of other contexts–to apply to pretty much anything that is difficult to comprehend.

Churchill, however, made this statement in a radio address on October 1, 1939, and was referring to Soviet intentions in adopting the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the terms of under which the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany divided up interwar Poland and the Baltics. Why would the Soviet Union allow Germany to advance eastward? Churchill argues that it can only be understood in the context of Soviet self-interest. By conceding some territory to the east, the Soviets hoped to draw a line: this far and no further. We all now how well that worked out in the long run, but Molotov-Ribbentrop did arguably buy the Soviets some time to recover the worst excesses of the purges.

Although Churchill was wrong was he said that the Nazi regime would, as a result of von Ribbentrop’s visit to Moscow, have to “accept the fact that the Nazi designs upon the Baltic States and upon the Ukraine must come to a dead stop,” he was certainly right that national interest is the key to understanding Russia. Then as now, Russia operates very much as a classically realist actor.

Russia’s idea of what constitutes national interest may vary (widely, at times) from American notions of national interest, but if you want to know what motivates the Russians, you have to examine their perceptions of national interest.*

I’ve been invited here to write occasional commentary on the political and economic situation in Russia and the former Soviet Union. I also have a strong interest in general economic issues, so I’ll probably ruminate on that subject from time to time as well. I don’t have quite as many fancy degrees as the other folks here, but I recently received a Master’s Degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, with a focus on Russia Eurasia Studies, so I hope that I’ll be able to use this platform to say a few interesting things and spark some worthwhile debates while I’m at it.

* The second rule (and equally important) of Russia-watching is “follow the money”. I’ll get to that later.


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