Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Korbel professor receives ADVANCE grant for work on counterterrorism

Erica Chenoweth, an assistant professor at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, has received a $20,000 ADVANCE grant, given by the National Science Foundation to promote scholarship by women.

The grant will facilitate Chenoweth’s research on the impact of positive rhetoric in reducing terrorist activity. Chenoweth began her research in 2008 alongside Laura Dugan, associate professor of criminology at the University of Maryland.

“She and I have been studying which types of counterterrorism measures are most effective,” Chenoweth explains. “Actions versus speech, for example, as well as conciliatory versus coercive measures, and permissive versus repressive ones.”

Chenoweth and Dugan’s initial data collection consisted of more than 6,000 observations conducted in Israel. Later, they studied the data in order to map a correlation between antiterrorism activities and results.

“What we found was that conciliatory gestures were most effective in reducing terrorist activity,” she says. “Additionally, most of these successful gestures were verbal, such as verbal assurances made by the Israeli government.”

In their ADVANCE-funded follow-up, Chenoweth, Dugan and Brook Fisher Liu, an associate professor of communication at the University of Maryland, will pursue the answers to questions raised by the initial data set.

“Those questions include what motivations drive Israel to use conciliatory speech, and whether they were responding to positive Palestinian rhetoric,” says Chenoweth, who also received money from DU’s Faculty Research Fund and the Korbel School’s Faculty Research Fund to support her part of the project. “We’re really evaluating the sentiment of speech and its impact.”

She also will travel to talk to policymakers in Israel and Turkey, hoping to illuminate the value and effects of positive speech during conflict.

“A lot of conflict researchers say that talk is cheap,” she says. “We’re not convinced that’s true. What we’re trying to find is under what circumstances talk is not cheap.”


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