Quantitative Methods Trainings

Recently, an acquaintance asked me about some quantitative method trainings…and I went a little overboard with recommendations. I thought others could benefit too!

  1. ICPSR @ U Michigan. This year they have workshops on machine learning and other computationally heavy applications. Here’s their 2018 list; they have both 4-week session and workshops. I’ve attended their four-week sessions. While the classes focus on the technique, the professors will work with you about research design. I’ve heard really good things about their workshops, too, which might be best if your schedule is tight. You can apply for scholarships, but those only cover attendance at the four-week sessions.
  2. Quant workshops @ Duke. Duke has a social network analysis workshop (focused on public health applications) and one focused on machine learning. Their courses are pretty affordable and, if you can find funding from your institution, finding accommodations at Duke can be pretty affordable.  
  3. IQMR @ Syracuse. You might find this helpful if you want to do mixed methods work. They also have scholarships. They often offer a half- to one-day course at APSA as well as a short course. I took one on process tracing and was pretty happy.
  4. Global School in Empirical Research Methods. A couple of the professors from ICPSR also teach at this program and had a lot of good things to say about it. This might be a good choice if you have to do research in this part of the world.
  5. IPSA-NUS Summer School for Social Science Research Methods. Like above, this might be a good choice if you have research in that part of the world. They offer really good scholarships as well. It seems they’re strongly marketing themselves as an ICPSR alternative.
  6. Statistical Horizons. They have two- to three-day workshops on a variety of quant topics. Personally, I like a little more time than this.
  7. Visions in Methodology (VIM). I highly recommend that you sign up for the VIM listserv. They have a lot of great opportunities from a number of different programs. Most recently, they emailed about an ICPSR workshop on field experiments in Florence, Italy (swoon!). Here’s the link.
    1. They also have a fantastic annual conference focused on female scholars in methodology.


D.C. Recommendations

Adams Morgan

  • Mama Ayesha’s
  • Mixtec Mexican Food on Columbia Rd, right before the main part of Adams Morgan – so good
  • The Diner – good food for after bars or brunch
  • Grand Central Station – bar/club
  • The Reef – bar/club; in the spring/summer – go straight to the roof…and when you’re feeling a little tipsy, head down to the second floor to have a trippy time dancing in the middle of the aquariums
  • DROP EVERYTHING and have Amsterdam falafel – get the garlic sauce – it’ll change your life.
  • You’ll have to have the Jumbo slice pizza while you’re in DC – but don’t do it when you’re too drunk, it does not feel good on the way back up.
  • Jack Rose Dining Saloon – this is my all time favorite place in Adams Morgan – the roof opens up in the warmer months – it’s spectacular; also it’s just cozy overall and laid back
  • Madam’s Organ – YOU MUST go here; it’s grungy and crowded and amazing; the live music is fantastic.
  • Town Tavern – many nights of insane dancing and fun
  • Bourbon – laid back and cozy
  • Brass Monkey – just add it to a list when bar hopping; it’s fun (like Town Tavern)



  • Baked and Wire – cafe and über famous – must try!
  • Shop here! H&M, Zara, Urban Outfitters, Sephora, etc.
  • Wingo’s – munchies like buffalo wings, burgers, cheese fries – try their fried cheesecake.
  • Bodega – one of my favorite tapas places in all of DC – they’re a little pricey but not too much if you go with friends!
  • Bar hop in Georgetown – you totally get a different feel of DC
  • I went to Rhino Bar on M Street for my 21st birthday
  • There’s a Moby Dick here too!
  • Farmers and Fishers is right on the Waterfront – grab a nice dinner there (or Moby Dick if you want it to be a little cheaper) and then walk around the waterfront.
  • Snap Bakery/Cafe here is amazing – it has delicious and generous crepes and bubble tea!


Monuments, etc.

  • Do the monuments at night – if just some, then definitely Lincoln and Jefferson
  • Jefferson is also good in the spring with the cherry blossoms
  • On that note, prepare for the masses of people during cherry blossoms



  • Sit and read in one of the secluded indoor courtyards of the National Gallery of Art. My favorite is right next to the Renaissance painters’ gallery, near the works of Titian.
  • The Hirschorn always has a very interesting rotation of exhibitions and some of the neatest standing exhibits – they’re also significantly closer to the Smithsonian metro.
  • The Holocaust Museum – it’s hard, and you’ll be quiet for most of it (it’s a lot to process), but it is very much worth it.


H Street

  • Go bar hopping here at least once!
  • Lots of young professionals live here
  • Jazz club – HR57 – I used to go to it when it was on U Street, but it moved to H Street – it’s awesome and laid back and BYOB
  • Sticky Rice (sushi)
  • Taylor’s – good sandwiches (company is from Philly)
  • Sidamo (Ethiopian coffee shop)


Dupont Circle/K street

  • Kramers Books – check out the books – the cafe is good, but not a must eat at
  • Black and Blue (burgers)
  • There are some nice lounges/bars here
  • Shake Shack
  • When it’s warmer – sit on the fountain and dip your feet in! It’s fun to unwind.
  • There’s a farmer market here in the warmer months, too
  • The Front Page – good for brunch and right across from the metro
  • There’s a pool place right next to the Front Page too – I think it’s called Buffalo Billiards or sth? It’s not bad, but ok if you’re up for that kind of scene.
  • There’s a Moby Dick (fast food Persian kabob) here by the L Street exit of Farragut North!


Foggy Bottom

  • The World Bank is here! I’m sure you’ll visit while you’re in DC with the program.
  • George Washington University is here
  • Founding Farmers – AMAZING food


U Street

  • Lots of young professional live here
  • The Gibson – for drinks!
  • Lots of fun bars here
  • Busboys and poets – a must visit part of DC – there’s always music, presentations, spoken word stuff going on here! It’s chill
  • Estadio – a little bit of a walk from U street (about five blocks) but so good!



  • Check out Nando’s Peri-Peri it’s good!
  • Zaytinya – fancy but yummy (Mediterranean)
  • There is a hole-in-the-wall, small restaurant here that is SO GOOD – it’s called the Chinatown Express – it’s fantastic! and cheap!

Qandeel Baloch & honor killings

Yesterday, headlines read the tragic loss of model and internet sensation, Qandeel Baloch.

Qandeel was drugged and strangled by her brother. 

He defended his actions as maintaining his family’s honor. He claimed the women’s rightful place is in the home, and that her non-traditional, “overexposed”social media presence and massive online following were causing great suffering to his family. 

This headline will invariably turn into a social media storm about the “backward” nature of Muslim culture and religion (a pessimistic stance, I know). While I sincerely hope that this is not the case, I think some perspective is necessary. My knowledge on the subject is limited, so I try to provide a brief background before some comments. Neither the background nor the comments are an extensive or exhaustive take on this very complicated issue. 

Some (multiple) disclaimers: my stomach turns at the idea of anyone – man or woman – being murdered in cold blood to maintain some fabricated concept of “honor”. I am 100% against this violence, and I am sure that will come across in my writing, despite my best efforts. This tradition – however horrific – exists and has to make sense (logically, emotionally, culturally, etc.) to the people perpetuating it. I spent a great deal of time talking with a friend who did agree with it, wholeheartedly. I will highlight these comments, know that they are not exact quotes – as they are not from a formal interview. I will not be sharing any identifying information about my friend, he will remain anonymous. 

Honor-based violence. Honor killings are part of a larger family of crimes known as honor-based violence (HBV), which include forced marriage, forced abortion, and others. If you’re interested in knowing the exhaustive list of HBV, see here. Also, here‘s a general background on honor killings. 

Origins of and trends in honor killings. Honor killings did not originate in the Muslim world, nor are they unique to Muslim-majority countries. They are, however, most common in Southeast Asia and MENA regions. There are reported cases of honor killings in Hindu communities, as well. 

They are also common in Europe and the United States, which is why we see governments of countries such as Canada, Great Britain, and the United States taking rising trends in this practice very seriously

Not just females. It is also important to understand: honor killings are not limited to violence against females. Males are also targets of honor killings, but less frequently than females. (Alternatively, perhaps male-targeted honor killings are discussed less frequently in the news, and therefore we think it is more sporadic occurrence.) 

Honor killings and Islam. Since this conversation will inevitably turn towards Islam, let’s discuss Islam and honor killings for a moment. Honor killings are not officially supported in Islamic texts. They are linked to the Muslim world due to the heightened frequency in these countries. Some Islamic legal traditions legitimize honor killings, while others officially denounce them. Obaid-Chinoy, famed documentary filmmaker of A Girl in the River, says it is very easy to kill females in Pakistan. Witnesses could attest to the girl’s whereabouts, justifying the killing. If it is disputed, wrongful honor killings can be paid in diyyeh, or blood money.

Anti-honor killing legislation. Many Muslim majority countries have taken steps to quell honor killings. The Pakistani government had previously pledged to pass legislation outlawing honor killings. In March 2016, they did, but it seems it has not been implemented. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes honor killings as part of a larger category of femicide

Honor killings are often carried out on their own. In some instance, they are legitimized in makeshift councils, where elders determine that x girl/woman be punished for y transgression (e.g. coming home late, talking to a male outside of the family, anything uncomely to the family in general, etc.) 

As previously stated, this is a tradition that makes sense to thousands of people, so it’s important to understand it’s logic for those groups. Ultimately, it’s because, 

“It is a mindset we have to change,” – Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, documentary filmmaker of “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness”

A friend (let’s call him R.) who supports honor killings described that honor killings occur because a women has a sole purpose of bringing honor (read: fame, goodness, etc.) to her family through her actions – be they studying, socializing, etc. Everything she does is to the benefit – or detriment – of her family. It is when this detriment is so grave that there comes a need to restore the honor that her family lost due to her actions. 

Think about this for a moment – this means that every single thing a female does is perceived to be reflected on the worth of her family. This is an exorbitant amount of pressure for any one person to bear. What of the adolescent girl that is coming into her own, experimenting with her sexuality, understanding who she is? What are our teenage and college years if not a series of mistakes for us to take notes on and continually adapt in order to know ourselves the best we can. If a female’s actions are reflected on the worth of her family, then it is not the honor killing behavior we have to eradicate, that is putting a band-aid on problem: it is the perception of a female’s value, role – her worth in society – that has to be changed. 

This is easier said than done. Who are we – as outsiders – to determine what is best for any group of people? Who are we to dictate how anyone else should live their lives and how they should perceive one another? These societies have operated this way for thousands of years. Who is entitled to intervene to change behaviors or perceptions? Does intervention come from the outside or from within the community?

This sparked a conversation with another friend (let’s call him F.). We discussed that it’s easy for us, sitting behind our laptops in the US or Europe, to look over and call for equality, human rights, and intervene to adjust horrific behaviors such as honor killings; but is this not imperialism by other means? What’s the alternative? People from the communities may reach out for intervention (many public health interventions use this participatory approach). The issue with the latter is that many of these are high-context cultures and closed-in communities: those that seek reprieve may not know how to reach out those outside their immediate network. 

Thankfully, there are local organizations that spearhead bottom-up efforts to stop honor killings, women’s rights in general, and legislative efforts to outlaw this practice. 

I’d like to end on this note:

“I don’t want to promote an Orientalized version of women as powerless and subject to honor killings…But at the same time it’s important to me to bring attention to the fact that the girls who are being killed are in their society powerless and are horribly repressed and essentially killed for no reason at all.” – Rafia Zakaria, Amnesty International USA

Do not take this post to mean that women in groups or countries that have honor killings are helpless and need “saving” – that’s not the purpose of this post. Instead, I hope that this discussion provided you with a launching point for your own inquiries on honor killings and the circumstances surrounding them.  

Street Kids

This video about street kids broke my heart this morning.

I’ve seen street kids when I lived in Germany and China, like the naïve eight-year-old I was, I didn’t realize why someone who looked like me, was as tall as me, and smiled like me – had to be different and without. In college, I volunteered at a soup kitchen once a week in Judicial Square in DC. It didn’t bother me when patrons came in glaring or screaming obscenities at me (no fault of of their own, there were many with mental health issues that were off their medications). It didn’t bother me when people would come in suits and have a meal before they went job hunting. I saw firsthand how the image of homelessness changed after the 2008 economic crisis. It did bother me when a kid would come in and ask for food. I remember each of their faces.

As an adult, I’ve come to understand that street kids are everywhere – often referred to as “homeless youth” in the United States (http://www.americanstreetkid.com/) – to Kurdistan (Rwanga Foundation). They are at greater risk of human trafficking and child slavery, though this doesn’t happen to all street kids (see this blog post for a comprehensive background on the subject and further information).

Take some time to learn about this vulnerable population (via UNICEF). (In addition, what constitutes group is a vulnerable population?)

Know that homeless youth that are additionally LGBTQI, of an ethnic or racial minority, and female are at a greater disadvantage and more likely to be discriminated. (This likelihood increases given a combination of two or more of the identities listed above. For a gentle introduction to the sociological theory of intersectionality, see here.)

See what you can do to help: from raising awareness (i.e. volunteering, posting on social media, etc.), donating (if you’re in a more fortunate financial situation than me), or simply by not ignoring a kid walking alone in tattered clothes (which every single one of us can do). Ignore critics of #slacktivism (read in support of it here and a general questioning of it here) for a few minutes to share with others what being a street kid looks like.

If you know of homeless youth, here are some resources to help them.

[Nerdy social scientist aside: pretty sure IRB would not have approved of the social experiment depicted in this video.]

List of Political Science Associations

I have compiled a list of political science associations for graduate students in the department. Here you go: https://goo.gl/FEUJ5Q
As a graduate student, juggling school work, RA/TA work, and other service components, I often find myself scrambling to find forums to present my research. I’ll often stumble upon a CFP and before I’m able to patch something together, I miss the deadline.
I thought it might be helpful to have a central document with most possibilities and go from there. Check them out, sign up for their listservs or check them periodically so that you will be notified when the conferences are approaching.

Are Trigger Warnings Contributing to Our Academic Demise?

I got into an interesting debate about trigger warnings last week with some of my colleagues. As a result, I was introduced to this very interesting Atlantic article.

The article explains what trigger warnings are and purports that they are creating “thinner-skinned” undergraduate academic students and therefore hampering the freedom of speech (in the name of academia) on college campuses.

From: http://www.psmag.com/health-and-behavior/hazards-ahead-problem-trigger-warnings-according-research-81946
From: http://www.psmag.com/health-and-behavior/hazards-ahead-problem-trigger-warnings-according-research-81946

Unfortunately, this article creates a convolution with trigger warnings and something else entirely, let’s call it political correctness. Regarding the former, trigger warnings are necessary when running simulations or having difficult discussions – if you’re discussing genocide and a student has had the terrible misfortune of experiencing one – why wouldn’t you prompt your discussions? Most of our colleges are now laden with returning veterans, eager to get their undergraduate and graduate degrees, why wouldn’t we allot them the respect of at least prefacing discussions regarding the difficult, incomprehensible things they witnessed on a day to day basis while on the battlefield with a simple – “we’re going to be discussing some difficult concepts and issues regarding war and war time today.” A trigger warning does not have to be directed or single anyone out in any way, it’s meant as a courtesy to people and their pasts.

“The ultimate aim, it seems, is to turn campuses into “safe spaces” where young adults are shielded from words and ideas that make some uncomfortable. And more than the last, this movement seeks to punish anyone who interferes with that aim, even accidentally. You might call this impulse vindictive protectiveness. It is creating a culture in which everyone must think twice before speaking up, lest they face charges of insensitivity, aggression, or worse.”

The article makes an interesting point by mentioning that trigger warnings for things that shouldn’t be classified as trigger warnings, noting that these are causing thin-skinned students, unable to hear or have a difficult discussion about very real subject matters. Hasn’t our society matured enough? Are we not self-aware enough to have the ability to recognize that our words have very real meanings and impacts on others? When did having “a real conversation” in academia mean that we throw caution to the wind and say what we want however we want to say it? How can you even begin to have a real discussion about race without recognizing who you are, how you were raised, and what you look like impacts the way in which you are able to discuss these issues that are very real and very sensitive for others?

“According to the basic tenets of psychology, helping people with anxiety disorders avoid the things they fear most is misguided.”

…but neither is shoving it in their face all the time. A person with an anxiety disorder does not need repeated contact with what causes their anxiety to get over it. That process, which I find inadvisable, may work for some, but for others, it may cause a very quick and very dark downward spiral.

“We do not mean to imply simple causation, but rates of mental illness in young adults have been rising, both on campus and off, in recent decades. Some portion of the increase is surely due to better diagnosis and greater willingness to seek help, but most experts seem to agree that some portion of the trend is real. Nearly all of the campus mental-health directors surveyed in 2013 by the American College Counseling Association reported that the number of students with severe psychological problems was rising at their schools. The rate of emotional distress reported by students themselves is also high, and rising. In a 2014 survey by the American College Health Association, 54 percent of college students surveyed said that they had “felt overwhelming anxiety” in the past 12 months, up from 49 percent in the same survey just five years earlier. Students seem to be reporting more emotional crises; many seem fragile, and this has surely changed the way university faculty and administrators interact with them. The question is whether some of those changes might be doing more harm than good.”

Why isn’t the fact that we are more open regarding our discussion of mental health and mental illnesses than ten, twenty, thirty years ago? It seems that the rise in mental illnesses could similarly be due to the fact that more people are coming forward with having these issues. More people recognize that the recurring slump they are in could be due to depression or their panicky demeanor could be the surface of something deeper. We think people were hardier in the past – but it is a very dangerous to mistake hardiness for absolute avoidance.

This article – like any good piece of journalism – should be informative, make you nod, and make you scream all at once. I learned a great deal from this piece, but have a number of issues with some of its evidence and conclusions, as well.

Iran’s compulsory hijab: comments & personal experience

“We believe in hijab, but we hate compulsory hijab.”

“Iran is for all Iranians – you can’t just hide one side of Iran and show the other side of Iran, and say this is Iran. This is a lie. Iran is me and my mother. My mother wants to wear a scarf. I don’t want to wear a scarf. Iran should be for both of us.”

Masih Alinejad’s Facebook project is My Stealthy Freedom.

From Vox’s “How one Iranian women is using Facebook to fight Iran’s mandatory dress code“.

I used to think that the hijab is tantamount to the repression of Iranian women. When traveling to Iran and having to cover, it was suffocating for me. After asking many women there about their experiences with hijab, I received feedback from those that despised it.

One comment, however, resonated with me – a friend mentioned that she thought the hijab and Islamic covering was liberating. I couldn’t even comprehend what she was saying. My friend was not very religious either, but bought into this tradition for other – seemingly rational- reasons. In justifying it, she didn’t invoke any religious doctrine.

She said it took away distractions and permitted men to take her words seriously, instead of focusing on her curves. She told me that with a hijab, no man is sizing her up and sexualizing her; her hijab and mantu (loose clothing, often like a jacket often worn with hijab) saved her from cat calls. While my own experience demonstrated that men will cat call and follow you for almost any reason in a bazaar, her words stayed with me.

From my own experience with Iranian and Iranian-American cultures, women are often regarded as a object, something beautiful to be looked at, cherished, and protected. This is pervasive in my family, but is dichotomous with intelligence; so there is an added pressure of being both beautiful and brilliant. For a second, I thought about the words of my friend – how nice would it be to don an invisibility cloak that took away the beauty and instead focused on my brains? While that may be the case in Iran, here, the effect is virtually opposite. Wearing the traditional Islamic garments here will often bring you more attention than not.

Aside from this anecdote, Alinejad’s work compels us to think about the compulsory nature of the hijab in Iran and urges viewers to consider it should be a choice.

Is feminism intersectional?

“My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit,” Flavia Dzodan wrote in an essay pointing out that white feminism can fall into a terrible tendency of being à la carte — that “feminists” will champion equality as it suits them, and ignore things like racial inequality or LGBT discrimination. Dzodan’s words dovetail with a major criticism of feminism today — that white women who call themselves feminists tend to pay attention only to issues that pertain to them.

This idea came to life in the Meryl Streep T-shirt controversy. The fact that Streep didn’t seem to recognize how her shirt could be interpreted is, to some people, confirmation that feminism still isn’t intersectional.”

From Vox’s, “Meryl Streep’s ‘slave’ t-shirt outrage explained”.

Quick Review: Islamic Law

Islamic law is known as the law of God or the Shari’a. Classically, Islam draws no distinction between religious and secular life. Hence, Shari’a covers not only religious rituals, but also many aspects of day-to-day life, politics, economics, banking, business or contract law, and social issues. The term Shari’a itself, derives from the verb Shara’a, which connects to the idea of spiritual law and the system of divine law. Sharia has certain laws that are regarded as divinely ordained, concrete, and timeless for all relevant situations (i.e. the ban against drinking liquor as an intoxicant).

Shari’a is based on four primary sources: 1) the Quran, 2) the hadith, or tradition, 3) ijma’, or consensus of jurists, and 4) ‘aql, or reasoning (Entessar 1988, 94). The Quran is the foundational source of law for all Shari’a, however, Shi’a Shari’a also places a great deal of weight on the considerations and views of the Imams in the formation of its legal system (Entessar 1988, 94).

Hadith refers to the statements, deeds, and sayings of the Prophet and the Imams recorded and codified by their companions (Entessar 1988, 94). Both ijma’ and ‘aql are considered by some as secondary sources of Shi’a law, with the former delineating the views of the Shi’a scholars who were close companions of the Imams and the latter describing judgments based on pure and practical reason from which religious law can be inferred (Entessar 1988, 94).

Certain laws are extracted based on principles established by Islamic lawyers and judges (Mujtahed; pl. Mujtahedun). In deriving Shari’a law, Islamic lawmakers attempt to interpret divine principles. An Islamic lawyer or judge’s attempt to rule according to Islam law can be described as ruling by Shari’a, it can concurrently be heavily influenced by local customers (urf).

Islamic jurisprudence is called figh (meaning understanding of details) and refers to the interferences about Islamic rules drawn by scholars from the principles divined from Shari’a. Figh is divided into two parts: the study of the sources and methodology (usul figh; roots of the law) and the practical rules (furu figh; branches of the law). Legal scholars hope that Shari’a and figh are in harmony any given cases, but cannot be sure.

The Iranian penal code upholds the four major crime categories of Islamic law: hudud, qisas, ta’zir, and diyat. Hudud crimes include theft, robbery, adultery, drinking alcohol, and rebellion. Punishments for hudud crimes are enumerated in the Quran, which range from stoning to bodily mutilations to executions.

Qisas crimes include murder, manslaughter, and mutilation. These offenses are regarded as acts against the victim. It left to the discretion of the victim’s family if retributive injury should be inflicted on the perpetrator that is exactly equal to that inflicted on the victim (Entessar 1988, 98). Despite the legalization of retribution and vendettas, the Quran and Iranian penal code recommend forgiveness as it is pleasing to God (Entessar 1988, 98).

Ta’zir crimes are not otherwise specified in the Quran or hadith. Punishments for these crimes range from fines to seizure of property and public flogging. The judge is burdened with determining an appropriate punishment considering the temporal culture and public interest (Entessar 1988, 98).

Diyat, or blood money, delineates a form of compensation (i.e. reparation) rather than a category of punishment. In lieu of qisas (retribution), the victim’s family may elect to seek reparations from the perpetrator. The Iranian penal code has codified diyat allocations for numerous crimes (Entessar 1988, 98).

This brief introduction was written by myself and a colleague, Mehrnoosh Karimi Andu.

Published in the following book chapter:

Tavassolian, Nargess, Mohamad Hedayati-Kakhki, Kamiar Alaei and Alexandra Harrington. “Interrogating Suspects in Iran”. In Walsh, D., Oxburgh, G. E., Redlich, A. D., & Myklebust, T. (2015). International Developments and Practices in Investigative Interviewing and Interrogation: Volume 2: Suspects. Routledge.


…on why drone strikes don’t work for US national security and counter-terrorism efforts in the long run.

“Because this president, in my opinion, has fundamentally undermined our ability to defend this nation by killing terrorists rather than capturing them and taking them to an intelligence facility like Guantanamo Bay and learning how these groups operate,” Lippold added. “And while the program appears on the face to have had great success, I think ultimately the drone program is setting us up for failure because for each high-level terrorist you kill, that is a high-level intelligence asset that is no longer available to exploit.”

This quote is taken from this Daily Caller article.