- Comparative Politics
- International Relations
M.A., Political Science, McGill University; M.A., Economics, American University in Cairo; B.A. (hon.), American University in Cairo
Committee: Robert Keohane (Chair), Evan Lieberman, Christina Davis, Amaney Jamal
Thesis Title: Selective Sovereignty: Foreign Policy, Ethnic Identity, and the Politics of Asylum
Abstract: Why do countries welcome some refugees and treat others poorly? When do governments keep asylum policy firmly in their grip, and when do they willingly hand it over to the United Nations? Since most refugees are perceived to be poor and vulnerable, it is tempting to assume that the assistance they receive is a reflection of countries’ money and “heart.” Instead, I develop a “selective sovereignty” theory in which states’ approaches to refugees are shaped by foreign policy and ethnic politics. Internationally, leaders use refugees to reassure allies and exert pressure on rivals. At the same time, policymakers have domestic political incentives to favor refugee groups who share their ethnic identity. When they face conflicting pressures, policymakers delegate to the UN to avoid antagonizing refugee-sending countries or domestic constituencies. I find support for this theory in statistical analysis of a global dataset as well as case studies of asylum policy in Egypt, Kenya, and Turkey. Aside from addressing a puzzling real-world phenomenon, this project adds insights to the literature on political responses to globalization processes, the politics of migration and asylum, and the international sources of domestic politics.