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Marcelle Cohen

Dissertation Fellow
UC Santa Barbara

Marcelle Cohen is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at UC Santa Barbara. Marcelle’s research develops a new approach to studying the relationship between legitimacy in U.S. state-building and security policy decisions in recipient states. U.S. state-building initiatives leverage a standard set of strategic prescriptions and incentives to ensure that recipients make the “right” decisions to manage violence related to drugs, terrorism, and insurgency. Drawing on sociological theories of legitimation, Marcelle’s dissertation captures how these state-building logics influence recipient decisions by shaping the ways diverse local policy-makers negotiate what security policies are considered most legitimate—accepted as the way security should be done. She uses elite interviews, participant observation, and archival data to trace and compare the histories of U.S. state-building and divergent recipient policy trajectories in Colombia and Mexico. Her work provides theoretical and policy-relevant insights by specifying the effects of initiative ideas on the perceived “acceptability” of local policy claims, shaping distinct opportunities and constraints for military escalation and peace-building outcomes in recipient states.

Proposal Title: Managing Violence: Legitimacy and the Contradictory Outcomes of U.S. State-building in Colombia and Mexico

Expertise & Interests

  • Peace and conflict
  • Security
  • State and society
  • Global politics
  • Political thought