James Ron (1993)

Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University, Ottawa

I came to Berkeley in 1993 after working with an international human rights group. I became enthralled by sociology, especially as practiced by Michael Burawoy and Peter Evans. I've since worked at Brown University, Johns Hopkins, and McGill. I teach courses on 19th and 20th century evils such as colonialism, fascism, Stalinism, US counterinsurgency policies, and post-colonial authoritarianism, as well as critical seminars on liberal transnational activism. My research examines the ways in which international norms shape patterns of political violence, often at the micro-level.

I've also worked as a consultant to groups such as the International Red Cross, Human Rights Watch, and CARE. When working with these organizations, I try and learn as much as I can for my own scholarly purposes. Recently, for example, I've become intrigued by the perverse financial incentives infiltrating the international NGO world, something I learned about through my consulting work. Over the coming years, I hope to train a group of graduate students interested in similar issues, combining NGO work with sociological research.

I learned some important lessons at Berkeley: the best way to understand something, I discovered, was to go where the sociological action was and to ask participants what they thought. I also learned to think critically at all times, even when this might be unpopular; this doesn't necessarily win you friends and influence, but it does generate some interesting sociology. Finally, I learned to always try and make my sociology matter in some broader political way.

Dissertation Title: 
Frontier and Ghetto: The Institutional Underpinnings of State Violence in Bosnia and Palestine
Dissertation Book Title: 
Frontiers and Ghettos: State Violence in Serbia and Israel.