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Jennifer Dixon Researches Explanations, Impact of Controversial National Histories
Author: Meredith Blake
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security
Jennifer Dixon is a research fellow with the Belfer Center's International Security Program, analyzing how nations deal with controversial pasts.
New Jersey native Jennifer Dixon credits a dedicated and enthusiastic high school teacher with her initial interest in government and politics. Dixon said this class sparked her initial interest in studying politics, which eventually led to her decision to major in government as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College.
In college, Dixon focused almost entirely on American politics, until a semester at the London School of Economics piqued her interest in comparative politics and international relations. She studied Turkish during her junior year, and as a result of this semester abroad, she developed an academic interest in Turkish politics and history in her final year of college. After working in New York City for four years, Dixon started graduate school in political science at the University of California, Berkeley.
She studied comparative politics and international relations, while continuing to focus on Turkish politics.
When the time came to write her dissertation, Dixon was intrigued by the ways in which the Armenian genocide has been dealt with in Turkey's domestic politics and foreign relations. Moreover, despite its importance, the issue has only recently begun to be discussed openly in Turkey, let alone studied.
As a result, Dixon decided to analyze how states' narratives of shameful pasts change over time, the dynamics of contestation over such narratives, and the meaning of these debates for contemporary politics. However, as a student of comparative politics, Dixon did not want to study Turkey's narrative in isolation. She decided to compare it with Japan's narrative of the Nanjing massacre and its invasion of China during World War II, since there are a number of similarities -- and a few key differences -- between the two cases.
"As I progressed in my research, I realized that the threat of violence (and in some cases, actual violence) was one domestic factor -- among many -- accounting for the striking continuities in both of these narratives," Dixon said. The International Security Program (ISP) at the Belfer Center has given Dixon access to a broad group of scholars working on Turkish politics, the Armenian genocide and Sino-Japanese relations. "I have been able to interact with and learn from scholars who are doing interesting work on different aspects of foreign policy and international relations," Dixon said. Her future plans include a career in political science that will combine teaching and research. For additional information about Dixon's research, see http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/experts/2084/
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