Jacobus Fellow Chantal Berman studies social protest in Tunisia and Morocco

Chantal Berman, a doctoral student in politics, is one of four winners of this year's Porter Ogden Jacobus Fellowship, Princeton University’s top honor for graduate students. 

Chantal Berman is one of four winners of this year's Porter Ogden Jacobus Fellowship, Princeton University’s top honor for graduate students, along with Cole Bunzel, Matthew Edwards and Georgios Moschidis.

The fellowships support their final year of study at Princeton and are awarded to one Ph.D. student in each of the four divisions (humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and engineering) whose work has exhibited the highest scholarly excellence. The Jacobus Fellows were honored at Alumni Day ceremonies Saturday, Feb. 24.

Berman, a doctoral student in politics who came to Princeton in 2012, received a bachelor’s degree in international relations and Middle East studies from Brown University. Her dissertation, “Protest, Social Policy and Political Regimes in Tunisia and Morocco,” which she and her adviser discuss in the video above, provides an analysis of how the Arab Spring revolts shifted the ways in which states respond to social protest movements. She has spent significant time in the field and has built databases of protests, sit-ins and strikes in both countries to add to her qualitative work based on extensive interviews with activists, syndicalists and public officials. Berman’s dissertation is supported by major research grants from the Social Science Research Council, the National Science Foundation and the American Institute for Maghreb Studies. 

Berman, who plans to pursue a career in academia, said she intends to develop her dissertation into a book and publish related papers based on her protest event datasets, including analyses of protest policing and state violence toward activists.

“A major, long-term career goal is to extend my contentious events datasets to cover other countries in the Middle East, and to make these databases available to both social science colleagues and to my contacts at civil society groups in the region, who may leverage them to build stronger campaigns for social and civic rights,” she said.

Her adviser, Amaney Jamal, the Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Politics and director of the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice, called Berman’s dissertation “of great theoretical and empirical importance.”

“This dissertation is a conceptually brilliant undertaking,” Jamal noted. “But it also requires a wealth of information that must be collected on the ground in both Tunisia and Morocco. It includes an event dataset that is derived almost exclusively from qualitative material, including interviews, content analysis from local newspapers, and other on the ground material. … This event dataset will be an exemplary source of data for others to build upon in future work.”