Faculty & Staff
Michael joined the political science department at Denison in the fall of 2009. His dissertation focuses on the role of parties and partisanship in conference committee negotiations between the House and Senate. More broadly, his research and teaching centers around the study of political institutions, campaigns and elections, and political parties in the United States.
I joined the faculty at Denison in 2007 holding a doctorate in political science from Loyola University Chicago. My current research interests focus on post-conflict peacebuilding and statebuilding, transitional justice, international organizations, human rights, and German foreign and security policy. I serve as the faculty advisor to several student organizations, including the Denison Democrats, Denison’s Model United Nations Club and Denison University’s UNICEF Chapter.
- Comparing Democratic States and Societies (POSC 120)
- Introduction to International Politics (POSC 122)
- Selected Topics in International Politics (POSC 141)
- Transitions to Democracy (POSC 330)
- The United Nations and World Problems (POSC 344)
- Human Rights in Global Perspective (POSC 345)
- European Union (POSC 346)
- Foreign and Security Policy in Western Europe (POSC 348)
- The Iraq War (POSC 402)
Every other fall I supervise the preparation of students to participate in the American Model United Nations (AMUN) simulation. Attendance at this simulation is part of my course, POSC 344, the United Nations and World Problems. The simulation gives students the opportunity to apply what they learn in the course over several days. Over the past few years Denison students have represented Lithuania, Zimbabwe, Malaysia, Serbia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Spain, Tunisia, and Colombia. Students have won numerous awards at the conference recognizing their excellence in representing these various countries. Over 1500 university students from the U.S and abroad attended the AMUN conference, representing approximately 100 UN Member States.
I have also supervised several senior and summer research projects, including: "The Czech Presidency of the European Union and the Lisbon Treaty: Critical Junctures and the Challenge of Leadership," Michelle Tverdosi ’10; "Recognition as Intervention in Civil Conflict: The Case Studies of Kosovo and East Timor," Leslie Marshall ’10; “The Responsibility to Protect and US Foreign Policy Decision-Making,” Evan Johnson ’11; “The Role of Artists in Political Change in Northern Ireland During the Troubles,” Erin Saul ’11; “Processes of Democratization, Peacebuilding, and Transitional Justice in Guatemala,” Sydni Franks ’13 [in collaboration with Dr. Gladys Mitchell-Walthour], “Breaking Borders: Computer Mediated Communication and Transnational Activism” Brenda Falkenstein ‘14.
International Relations Theory
Liberalism and Peace
Domestic sources of U.S. foreign policy since the Vietnam War, especially the role of public opinion and Congress
Dr Jim Pletcher joined the faculty 1983 after earning his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At Denison he has served in a variety of faculty governance rules including coordinating the Early Career mentoring Program and the Preparing Future Faculty Program. He currently serves as the University's Director of Fellowships. He is also the Executive director of the Africa Network, a consortium of liberal arts colleges and professors teaching about Africa at the undergraduate level. Jim also currently holds the Charles and Nancy Brickman distinguished Service chair.
Dr Pletcher's research focuses on the politics and institutions of agricultural production and marketing in the developing world. Most of his research has been done in Africa, though he has worked in Malaysia as well. Jim's current project explores the dynamics of small holder production and marketing of agricultural exports in Uganda. I am also looking at the effect of import standards and global trade negotiations on Ugandan exports.
- James R. Pletcher. "The Politics of Liberalizing Zambia's Maize Markets." World Development. January 2000. v. 28 no. 1 p. 129-42
- James R. Pletcher. "Agriculture and the Dual Transition in Zambia." Journal of Developing Areas. Winter 1999. v. 33 no. 2 p. 199-222
- James R. Pletcher with Brian Siegel and John Grotpeter. The Historical Dictionary of Zambia, 2nd Edition. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. 1998.
- James R. Pletcher. "Ecological Deterioration and Agricultural Stagnation in Eastern Province, Zambia," Centennial Review. Spring 1991. v. 35 no. 2 p. 369-88
- James R. Pletcher. "Regulation With Growth: The Political Economy of Palm Oil in Malaysia," World Development. June 1991. v. 19 no. 6 p. 623-36
- James R. Pletcher. "Public Interventions in Agricultural Markets in Malaysia: Rice and Palm Oil," Modern Asian Studies. May 1990. v. 24 no. 2 p. 323-40
- James R. Pletcher. "Rice and Padi Market Management in West Malaysia, 1957-86," The Journal of Developing Areas. April 1989. v. 23 p. 363-84
- James R. Pletcher. "The Political Uses of Agricultural Markets in Zambia," Journal of Modern African Studies. December 1986. v. 24 no. 4 p. 603-17
- James R. Pletcher. "The National, Regional and Household Contexts of Agricultural Production in Eastern Province, Zambia," Proceedings of the African Agricultural Development Conference. Pomona: California State Polytechnic University, 1985.
- Review of African Economies and the Politics of Permanent Crisis, 1979-1999 by Nicolas van de Walle in The Journal of Modern African Studies 41,3 (2003): 502-03.
- Review of Africa's Quest for Economic Development: Uganda's Experience by Jossy R. Bibangambah in The Journal of Modern African Studies 41,2 (2003): 323-24.
- Review of Structural Adjustment: Theory, Practice and Impacts by Giles Mohan, Ed Brown, Bob Milward, and Alfred B. Zack-Williams in The Journal of Modern African Studies 39,2 (2001): 373-74.
- Review of Government and Society in Malaysia by Harold Crouch in Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 12,1 (1998): 213 -15.
- Review of Cutting Down Trees by Henrietta Moore and Megan Vaugh in The Journal of Modern African Studies 34,4 (1996): 728-30.
- Review of No Shortcuts to Progress: African Development Management in Perspective by Goran Hyden in The Political Science Quarterly, 99 (Fall, 1984): 578-79.
- Review of Underdevelopment and the Transition to Socialism: Mozambique and Tanzania by James Mittelman in The Political Science Quarterly, 98 (Spring, 1982): 171- 72.
Conference Papers and Lectures
- "Export Standards and Development in Uganda," International Studies Association conference, Honolulu, Hawaii, 4 March 2005.
- "Organizing Coffee Farmers and Markets in Uganda," International Studies Association-Midwest, St. Louis, 7 November 2003.
- "Agricultural Markets and Liberalization in Zambia," Invited lecture, Center for African Studies, University of Copenhagen, 22 April 2002.
- "Rent-Seeking, Redistribution, and Repression: The Politics of Liberalizing Agricultural Markets in Zambia," International Studies Association conference, Washington, D.C., 17 February 1999.
- "Zambia's Agricultural Liberalization in Comparative Perspective," African Studies Association conference, Chicago, IL, 29 October - 1 November 1998.
- "Succession and Political Institutionalization," African Studies Association conference, San Francisco, CA, 23-26 November 1996.
- "Political Institutionalization and Succession," African Studies Association conference, Seattle, WA, 20-23 November 1992.
- "The State and Class Formation in the West Malaysian Palm Oil Industry, 1960-1985," Asian Studies Association conference, Washington, D.C., 2-5 April 1992.
- "Political Succession in Africa, 1960-1990: Zambia," African Studies Association conference, St. Louis, MO, 23-26 November 1991.
- "Ecological Deterioration and Agricultural Stagnation in Eastern Province, Zambia," Conference on Environment and Development in Africa and Latin America, East Lansing, MI, September 28-30,1990.
- "Public Interventions in Agricultural Markets in Malaysia: Rice and Palm Oil," International Seminar on Malaysian Agricultural Policy: Issues and Directions, June, 1988, Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia.
- "The Agricultural Crisis and Politics in Zambia," African Studies Association, annual conference, New Orleans, 1985.
- "The National, Regional and Household Contexts of Agricultural Production in Eastern Province, Zambia," Conference on African Agricultural Development: Technology, Ecology and Society, Pomona, CA, May 28 - June 1, 1985.
- "Agricultural Change in Eastern Province, Zambia," African Studies Association, annual conference, Los Angeles, 1979.
- Denison University Research Foundation Grant and a Global Partners East Africa Gravel Grant, 2004 for research to study agricultural export standards in Uganda.
- Mellon Faculty Career Enhancement Program Grant and a Robert C. Good Fellowship, Denison University, for Spring 2005 for research on agricultural export standards in Uganda.
- Global Partners East Africa Travel Grant, 2003 for research to study farmers' organizations in Eastern Uganda.
- Robert C. Good Fellowship, Denison University, for Spring 1998 for research on "Farmers' Associations, Civil Society, and Reform in Zambia."
- Denison University Research Foundation Grant, 1997, for research on farmers' groups in the process of political and economic liberalization in Zambia, in Lusaka, Zambia.
- Denison University Research Foundation Grant, 1995, for research on agricultural market liberalization, and The Historical Dictionary of Zambia in Lusaka, Zambia.
- Program for the Institutional Collaboration in Area Studies (PICAS), University of Michigan, Fall 1992 for research on the state and agricultural development in Indonesia, Thailand and Indonesia.
- Robert C. Good Fellowship, Denison University, Spring 1992 for research on "The Politics of Agricultural Reform in Africa."
- American Political Science Association Research Grant, 1987 for research on "Public Interventions in Agricultural Markets in Malaysia."
- Denison University Research Foundation Grant, 1987, for research on "Public Interventions in Agricultural Markets in Malaysia."
- National Science Foundation graduate fellow, 1976-1979.
I have led a peripatetic life. I grew up in Oklahoma, went to school in New Mexico and Maryland, then moved to New Jersey and New York, then moved to Seattle, Washington, to attend graduate school at the University of Washington. The Midwest is one of the few locales I have had little experience with, so I’m looking forward to exploring this corner of the world.
In addition to spending lots of time in different places, I have also held a variety of jobs. From joining the Oklahoma Air National Guard as a senior in high school to spending a summer as a packer for a moving company to deciding it would be great fun to be a over-the-road truck driver (it wasn’t fun for very long) to working briefly for Martha Stewart’s media corporation, I’ve had enough jobs to know that being a professor is just about the best job there is. In addition to reading foundational works of historic significance as a political theorist, I have the opportunity to interact with students whose creativity, character, and persistence inspire me to work ever harder to be a better teacher. A job at a school like Denison – where pedagogy is a common point of conversation among the faculty, but where research is given space and support – is exactly what I hoped for when I started graduate school.
In addition to summer research and teaching during the school year, I enjoy a range of outdoor activities, particularly hiking and camping. My goal is always to find a way to spend a week each year in Washington and a week in New Mexico; sadly, I fail at this regularly. My partner of 14 years, Lisa Clarke, is currently in Washington, DC, where she serves as a Teacher Ambassador Fellow at the US Department of Education.
Using the resources of critical and normative political theory, sociolegal scholarship, race and gender scholarship, and American political development, my research focuses on how ideas, events, and institutions shape political identities.
My dissertation, completed in 2011, focused on moments when the deaths of everyday citizens led to some kind of political change. An article taken from my dissertation appeared in Polity in 2012 as “The Politics of Mourning: The Triangle Fire and the Consolidation of Political Identity.” In that article, I examine the Triangle Fire of 1911 as an example of how mourning the loss of everyday citizens can become an effective means of calling for political change, with a particular focus on how the racial identities of the victims shaped the conversation. Another article, drawn from my dissertation, is forthcoming in 2014 in Law, Culture and the Humanities; “Mourning Emmett Till” considers the role of Emmett Till’s 1955 murder in the new interest of Northern whites in civil rights struggles in the South. I am in the process of revising my dissertation into a monograph, which I intend to get under contract by the end of the summer 2014.
Additionally, a forthcoming article on pedagogy, co-authored with Allison Rank, is forthcoming in 2014 in PS: Political Science & Politics and it titled “Writing Better Writing Assignments.” Both Allison and I were directors of a social science Writing Center at a major R1 university, and found that a considerable challenge faced by student writers was confusingly written paper assignments. So we joined forces to think about how to write clear prompts that accomplish specific tasks.