Aidan Milliff joins the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (Shorenstein APARC) as the 2022-2023 Shorenstein Postdoctoral Fellow on Contemporary Asia.
Milliff recently obtained his Ph.D. in Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was a predoctoral fellow at the Institute for Security and Conflict Studies at George Washington University, and a 2021-2022 USIP/Minerva Peace and Security Scholar. Aidan’s research combines computational social science and qualitative tools to answer questions about the cognitive, emotional, and social forces that shape political violence, migration, post-violence politics, and the politics of South Asia. His work appears or is forthcoming in journals and proceedings including AAAI, Journal of Peace Research, Political Behavior, as well as popular outlets including the Washington Post Monkey Cage Blog, War on the Rocks, and India’s Hindustan Times. Before MIT, Aidan was a James C. Gaither Junior Fellow in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He holds a BA in political science and MA in international relations from the University of Chicago. He was born and raised in Colorado.
Aidan’s dissertation asks: in complex political violence scenarios, like inter-communal conﬂict in South Asia, what determines the strategies that people pursue to keep themselves safe? Aidan develops a political psychology theory, situational appraisal theory, which focuses on variation in individual interpretations of violent environments to explain civilian behavior. The dissertation first uses situational appraisal theory to explain the behavior of Indian Sikhs who encountered violence in rural insurgency and urban pogroms during the 1980s. Pairing original interviews with a novel method for applying multilingual text classiﬁcation algorithms and automated video-analysis tools to analyze an archive of hundreds of oral history videos, the project shows that situational appraisals of control and predictability explain substantial variation in individuals’ choice of survival strategies when confronting violence. The dissertation then demonstrates the generalizability of situational appraisal theory to international security domains, using a large survey experiment to show that control and predictability framing inﬂuences foreign policy preferences about hypothetical U.S.–China military confrontation.
At APARC, Aidan will transform his dissertation project into a book manuscript, and extend his ongoing research on decision-making, political violence, and Indian politics.