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Neil Englehart, assistant professor of government and law at Lafayette, has received a $40,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for a research project comparing state formation in Britain, Burma, and Siam.

The grant is supporting Englehart’s research in the India Office Archives of the British Library in England and the Thai National Archives in Thailand. He is spending this academic year at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

Englehart’s research is fixed in the concept that although the idea of the modern state is universally accepted today, it arose as a product of Europe and was preceded by a variety of political structures.

“As recently as the 18th century, people in different cultures conceived of politics in a tremendous variety of ways, creating a kaleidoscope of corresponding institutional forms, from the nascent nation-states of Europe to the Chinese world empire, from the oscillating chiefdoms of the South Pacific to the feudal theocracy of Tibet,” he says.

The states system created a foundation for international markets, organizations, and other institutions of globalization.

“Globalization is most often treated as a recent product of technological and economic change, ignoring the deep historical roots of the phenomenon and the earlier waves of globalization that make the contemporary version possible,” says Englehart. “At a minimum, modern economic and technological globalization is built on the foundation of a system of states that can provide legal predictability, protection for businesses, citizens and property, and credible commitments to abide by international agreements. I argue that this system of states is the product of a 19th-century wave of intellectual and political globalization that made states virtually universal in the modern world. Vital to this process was an issue that has received little attention from political scientists: the cross-cultural transmission and adaptation of political ideas.”

The research project compares Britain, Burma, and Siam because they represent three different means of state formation.

“In Britain the state developed through an evolutionary process of trial and error; in Burma it was imposed by British imperialists; and in Siam it was created by local elites adapting the Burmese model to their own circumstances,” Englehart explains.

Last year, Englehart published Culture and Power in Traditional Siamese Government, a book in which he argued that political reform in 19th-century Siam is an example of intentional cultural change in response to new ideas. Much of the basic work in the Thai National Archives necessary for the current project was begun during research for the book.

In other related work, Englehart participated in a 1999 NEH summer seminar, “Cultural Difference and Values: Human Rights and the Challenge of Cultural Relativism.” He is co-editing a book entitled Constructed Universalisms: Human Rights in an Age of Globalization that emerged from the seminar, and has contributed an article to the book entitled “A Constructed Universalism: Democracy and Rights in the Modern State.”

Previously, Englehart received a Fulbright Fellowship for research in Thailand and a Fulbright scholarship for language study there. He is a fluent reader and speaker of Thai.

A member of the Lafayette faculty since 1997, Englehart has published several articles in academic publications and given talks at several conferences, including last year’s annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association. In 1999, he was panel organizer, chair, and presenter at the Middle Atlantic Regional Meeting of the Association for Asian Studies.

Englehart has worked with several Lafayette students on research projects. He advised Cameron Hall of Portland, Ore., who graduated in May with honors in International Affairs, on his senior honors thesis on the growth of globalization and its impact on state sovereignty. Hall presented results from his work last year at the 15th annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research. Englehart also served as thesis adviser for Ken Kligge of Hatfield, Pa., a double major in government and law and International Affairs who graduated with honors in 2000. Kligge wrote on international nuclear weapons policy, examining how a new, innovative method for weapons-storage might reduce the chances of an accidental launch of intercontinental nuclear missiles.

Englehart also mentored Susan Antonioni of Hellertown, Pa., a government and law major who graduated magna cum laude in May, in an EXCEL Scholars project exploring the relationship between political culture and human rights policies in India, Japan, China, South Korea, and Singapore. In Lafayette’s EXCEL Scholars program, students collaborate closely with faculty members on research projects while earning a stipend.

Since 1998, Englehart has been a member of the Atlantic Region of the Association for Asian Studies Advisory Committee, and he is a peer reviewer for Political Theory, Journal of Asian Studies, and Publius: The Journal of Federalism, which is published at Lafayette and edited by John Kincaid, Robert B. and Helen S. Meyner Professor of Government and Public Service and director of Lafayette’s Meyner Center for the Study of State and Local Government.

Englehart earned a Ph.D. and master’s in political science from the University of California, San Diego, in 1996 and 1991, respectively, and a bachelor’s degree in history and East Asian Studies from Oberlin College in 1987. He has been visiting assistant professor of political science and international studies at Northwestern University and instructor in political science at the University of California, San Diego.

Categorized in: Academic News