DKU professor wins Nils Petter Gleditsch award

A sociology professor at Duke Kunshan University has won the Nils Petter Gleditsch JPR Article of the Year Award 2023 for her co-authored paper on Arab uprisings.

Dr. Hyun Jeong Ha and her fellow researchers, Dr. Jason Kloeck from the University of Nottingham and Dr. Nathanael Gratias Sumaktoyo from the National University of Singapore, studied the impact on minority groups and religions of regime transitions in the Middle East between 1990 and 2014.

The interdisciplinary research builds upon Ha’s extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Cairo, Egypt, where she observed and interviewed Coptic Christians as she investigated their experiences in the aftermath of the Arab Spring in the early 2010s.

The judging panel said the article “Regime change and religious discrimination after the Arab uprisings” has important implications for the study of peace and conflict.

“I am thrilled to have been granted this award,” said Ha, an assistant professor of sociology at DKU. “It holds particular significance for me as it represents the culmination of our interdisciplinary research endeavor.

“Our inquiry addresses a crucial question: Why has social discrimination against religious minorities in North Africa intensified following the onset of the Arab uprisings in 2010?

“To explore this question, we pooled our expertise in quantitative and qualitative analysis to demonstrate and theorize the heightened social discrimination based on religion in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya three North African countries that underwent regime transitions following the collapse of authoritarian regimes.

“We discovered that the diminished influence of institutions and political elites employing religious rhetoric has contributed to the worsening discrimination against religious minorities.”

Hyun Jeong Ha

First held in 2006, the award is presented each year to an article appearing in the Journal of Peace Research based on its theoretical contribution, methodological sophistication and substantive relevance.

“The award-winning article combines careful theorizing on an under-researched, highly relevant topic with an impressive research design,” the judging panel said of the 2023 recipient.

“In their article, Klocek, Ha, and Sumaktoyo develop a nuanced argument about societal versus government discrimination in political transitions, which they test using sophisticated quantitative analysis in the context of the Arab Spring and further validate with in-depth ethnography based on seven months of field research in Egypt.”

A key argument of the paper is that “weakened institutions and the prevalence of religious outbidding during political transitions make societal-based religious discrimination (SRD) more likely to increase than government-based religious discrimination”.

Ha’s ongoing research explores how Coptic Christians negotiate their religious identity in response to discrimination following the 2011 Arab uprisings in Egypt.

“My primary aim is to challenge the prevailing Orientalist perspective, which often depicts discrimination and violence against non-Muslims in the Middle East as static and unchanging,” she said.

“Through my research, I have found that such discrimination and violence fluctuate, intensifying during specific periods.

“Furthermore, I am uncovering how the experiences of Egyptian Christians in relation to discrimination are heavily influenced by social factors such as gender, social class, and geographical location.”

Ha’s research interests include religion and politics, sectarianism, and gender in the Middle East and she has written extensively about Muslim-Christian relations in contemporary Egypt.

She holds a B.A. in Arabic from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and an M.A. in sociology from Seoul National University, both in South Korea, and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Texas, Austin, in the United States.

Dr. James Miller, co-director of the Humanities Research Center at DKU, extended his heartfelt congratulations to Ha for being awarded the prestigious prize.

“This recognition underscores Professor Ha’s remarkable contributions to research and scholarship in the social sciences field,” said the inaugural professor of humanities at DKU.

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