Graduate Center doctoral candidate Thuy Anh Tran (Political Science) was awarded a 2020 Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant by the American Political Science Association. The grant will fund her research on political repression, state power, and social movements.
A busy scholar, an activist, and winner of a teaching excellence award from Baruch College, Tran has published political commentary and essays exploring the secret police as well as the strategic use of violence in rebel governance.
She was actively involved in The Graduate Center chapter of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the union representing 30,000 CUNY staff and faculty. Outside of New York, she has organized grassroots electoral campaigns and helped lead the fight to raise the minimum wage. Tran said that her own activism in movements for social justice helped inspire her doctoral research.
She spoke to The Graduate Center about her research, how she will use her grant, and her career interests.
The Graduate Center:Can you elaborate on your dissertation and the focus of your research?
Tran: When we think about who is involved in political repression against movements and individuals branded as political dissidents, usually what comes to mind are the efforts of the police, military, and intelligence agencies. Yet, the U.S. historical record is replete with examples of governmental actors conspiring with, directing, or tacitly condoning non-governmental actors like the press, religious leaders, and civilian militias in their own repressive campaigns. But how and why do these repressive efforts proliferate so far beyond governmental actors, to form a seemingly totalizing web of repression?
My dissertation presents a theory of “networked repression” as a novel way of conceptualizing and contextualizing the repressive forces against which activists contend. Through my investigation of countermobilizations against the International Workers Order and the Black Panther Party, I identify the pathways through which the labor of repression is diffused and distributed, and explore its implications for state power and movement building.
GC: How do you plan to use your grant?
Tran: The grant covers the entire amount I budgeted for my dissertation research — over $12,000. I will use it to get trained on social network analysis and process tracing methods and to fund my archival research trips across the country.
GC: What are your career plans?
Tran: After graduation, I will look outside of academia and apply for research positions at institutions committed to social transformation. This will ensure my research remains public-facing, relevant, and widely accessible to ordinary people.