My research can be placed at the intersection of comparative politics and international relations, with a more specific focus on the influence of national identity on economic outcomes. I have sought to understand how national identity affects responses to financial crises as well as the political economy of economic adjustment in Western Europe.

My dissertation, The Good Student, the Bad Student, and the Celtic Tiger: National Identity and Responses to the Troika in Europe, analyzes the responses of Greece, Ireland, and Portugal to their bailout programs from the so-called “Troika” of international institutions, which were requested because the governments of Greece, Ireland, and Portugal had all been shut out of bond markets between 2010 and 2011. In return for financial assistance, each country was required to implement highly contentious austerity policies that included cuts to the welfare state, public wages, and public sector jobs, as well as tax increases and structural reforms. All three countries implemented similar policies, and all suffered massive recessions, huge increases in unemployment, and large-scale emigration, but each country’s response was profoundly different. My dissertation sought to understand why there was such variation in the responses of these three countries to very difficult programs of austerity and structural reforms. In particular, I wanted to understand why some countries responded with significant political and social resistance (Greece) while others appeared to be much more accepting of these very difficult economic policies required by external actors (Ireland and Portugal). I argued that explanations claiming that they can account for these responses – the prevalence of “neoliberal” ideas that legitimate austerity and liberal structural reforms, differences in institutional structures and reform capacities, or variation in the difficulty of the individual programs – may appear to explain one or even two of the cases but fail to explain all three. 

Given the shortcomings of the existing explanations, I argued that the responses of Greece, Ireland, and Portugal were shaped and influenced by particular aspects of each country’s national identity, especially as each relates to Europe and the European Union. The countries in all three cases were shown to have very different types of national identities, with the most prominent features of each identity being themselves a result of the historical context of each country. Additionally, the most prominent aspects of each country’s identity were also the least contested. Viewed through the lens of national identity, the responses from Greece, Ireland, and Portugal not only reproduced central elements of the content of each country’s national identity, but the identities interacted throughout the Troika programs, with Ireland and Portugal highlighting their differences from Greece, and Portugal actively striving to be more like Ireland. The interaction between identities further reinforced each country’s responses to their respective Troika programs.

I conducted this study using a small-n controlled comparison with detailed case studies and within-case process tracing. This also included extensive field work funded by a Fulbright Shuman Research Grant, where I conducted 38 semi-structured interviews with elites in Ireland, Portugal, and at the European Commission. I examined primary documents such as each country’s Memorandum of Understanding with the Troika as well as the Troika’s quarterly reviews. Finally, I reviewed secondary resources such as newspapers, academic books and articles, and official data from each country’s statistics offices as well as data from trusted institutions such as the OECD and Eurostat. This research offered a novel contribution to the literature because few studies have illustrated how national level identities have influenced large, sharply contested political processes. My work also suggests the plausibility of using national identity to explain outcomes in political economy and politics more generally. 

Future Research

I am also working on three articles. The first is an article that details Portugal’s response to its Troika program. This article uses data from my dissertation and argues that Portugal’s responses to its Troika program were influenced by its national identity, which was transformed in its post-revolution period. This article is currently under review. The second article is a condensed version of my dissertation and compare how national identity shaped the responses of Greece, Ireland, and Portugal to their Troika programs. The third article is a co-authored piece with Dr. Craig Parsons and Dr. Ralph Heidl. from the University of Oregon. This article uses the EU Debt Crisis to explore how divergent identities can reinforce the destabilizing trust-eroding behavior by one partner in a multi-partner alliance while incentivizing subsequent trust-building efforts by other partners. Moreover, we suggest that such identity-based endogenous reconfiguration of partner relationships may be an important mechanism to promote partner conflict resolution capabilities and overall multi-partner alliance stability. In the medium-term, I plan on publishing my dissertation as a book.