Ruhiya Kristine Seward

Ph.D. candidate

Expected Completion
May 2012

Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

Contact Information

Major Field
Comparative Politics

Minor Field
Political Theory

Dissertation Title
"Fusing Identities and Mobilizing Resistance in Chiapas and Mexico, 1994-2009"

Dissertation Committee
David Plotke (chair), Deva Woodly, Sanjay Ruparelia, Louise E. Walker

Dissertation Abstract
Zapatista political identity functioned as a mobilizing resource for the Chiapas rebellion in Mexico by generating core themes of socioeconomic rights and political justice associated with the left-aligned, progressive Catholic and indigenous aspects of the movement’s base. Though ‘resources’ are normally understood strictly in terms of monetary support in social movements, this research showed that there are other kinds of significant non-material-based resources in social movement organization. By developing a broad-based discourse in their online/email declarations, communiqués and stories, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) united local concerns in Chiapas with transnational issues such as indigenous rights and activism against neoliberalism. This developed the movement itself over time, allowing the rebellion to resonate with many different kinds of actors and stimulating innovative support networks locally and globally. By analyzing the dynamics of identity and discourse in the Chiapas rebellion from 1994 through 2009, this research showed how political identity shapes social movement formation and mobilization.


Research Interests
Research interests cluster around two main areas of study: contentious politics and human development. The first includes broader categories of people’s participation, such as the study of different kinds of collective political struggles around indigenous rights, ecological/environmental concerns and democratization; the role of political identity and cognitive liberation in catalyzing movements; and how participation and collective action is changed or augmented with the addition of new information and communication technologies (ICTs). The second area of research is in human development, particularly international institutions and policy making in relation to governance, ICTs and human rights.

Writing Samples
Short writing sample (PDF)

Teaching Experience/Courses Taught
Intro to Politics: Comparative Politics.

Teaching Statement
I like classes that are interactive and based in discussions between students themselves and with the instructor. I believe a combination of reading [chapters in books, contemporary news articles, op-ed pieces], writing [article summaries, short essays] discussions and presentations, as well as the use of other kinds of interactive material [documentaries, email discussion forums] help keep the class relevant and engaging for students. While some students are great at discussions, others may be great at reading and writing, and so I like to spread the grading process among different categories, such as among attendance and participation, in class presentations, and short essays – in order to maximize the different ways that students can excel. Drawing on my different experiences and knowledge bases, I would be excited to teach any number of courses having to do with contemporary politics, contentious political
action, international relations and human development. Courses ideas/suggestions include:

• Contentious politics and contemporary grassroots activism: from social movements to revolutions
• Introduction to comparative politics
• Information, communication technologies and contemporary activism
• Social media and social networks in global politics
• Development studies and the role of international institutions
• Community development and the politics of empowerment
• Politics of underdevelopment: critiques of international development
• International aid: program planning and development

The experience I had teaching a seminar at Eugene Lang College while I was preparing my dissertation research really brought home the process of learning and deliberation. I really enjoyed the seminar format because I think it encourages participation, and helps students find their voice and confidence. The syllabus of the course I taught at Eugene Lang College is below. It was designed as a third-year level course to introduce key themes in the study of comparative politics and contentious action.

Introduction to Politics: Comparative Politics (PDF)

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