Dissertation Project

The Politics of Domestic Violence
Gender equality and economic development go hand in hand. A wealth of cross-national evidence shows that economic development has a powerful, transformative and profoundly positive effect on the social, economic and political circumstances of women. And nowhere is this relationship more apparent than in Europe where the advanced industrialized states of the European Union consistently and systematically score highly across all indicators commonly associated with gender equality. However, despite these advances in gender equality, Europe has a hitherto unheeded problem – its astronomical rates of violence against women, particularly by intimate partners. In defiance of assumptions about the positive correlation between development and gender equality in general, recent survey research shows that within Europe, the wealthiest countries are also the countries where violence against women (VAW) is most prevalent.

My dissertation aims to provide a political explanation for this disturbing and puzzling relationship. My central argument is that variation in levels of VAW can best be explained by variation in a state’s implementation and promotion of the “universal breadwinning model”, which includes such policies as paid parental leave, publicly-funded daycare services, home-carer allowances and individual taxation. While these policies help increase female economic independence, they also precipitate the unraveling of traditional gender roles, which then provokes a violent male backlash against their partners. To test my theory, I pursue a mixed methodology that incorporates quantitative cross-national and sub-national statistical analysis, a most similar systems comparative design between Germany and Austria and ethnographic observation and interviews with survivors of VAW in the UK and Ireland. Through these methods, I seek to elucidate the critical role that the welfare state plays in directly shaping violence against women.

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Barnes, Mariel J. Forthcoming. “Divining Disposition: The Role of Elite Beliefs and Gender Narratives in Women’s Suffrage.” Comparative Politics.
Most accounts of franchise extension hold that elites extend electoral rights when they believe expansions will consolidate their political power. Yet, how do elites come to believe this? And how do elites make inferences about the political preferences of the disenfranchised? I argue that elites utilize the cue of “disposition” to determine the consequences of enfranchisement. Disposition refers to the innate characteristics of an individual (or group) that are believed to shape behavior and decision-making. Importantly, because disposition is perceived to be intrinsic, elites assume it is more stable and permanent than party identification or policy preferences. Using historical process-tracing and discourse analysis of primary documents, I determine that disposition was frequently and repeatedly used to either support or oppose women’s enfranchisement in New Zealand.

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Working Papers

The Family as a Site of Politics
The link between the state and the family was once inextricable. Families and familial structures determined not only the organization of marital and sexual relations, but complex political alliances, property rights and the accumulation of wealth, the social division of labor, and even, an individual’s occupation and employment. However, with the advent of modernization and industrialization, the importance of the family in politics began to decline and was eventually sidelined in political science. In this article, I argue that this perspective on the family is erroneous. Rather than being immaterial for the study of politics, I contend that the family is a critical site of politics and to elucidate this, I develop a typology of the diverse interactions between the state and the family. Through this paper, I hope to highlight avenues for future research into the link between family, gender and women.