Shorenstein APARC
Stanford University
Encina Hall, E301
Stanford,  CA  94305-6055

Shorenstein Postdoctoral Fellow on Contemporary Asia, 2022-23

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.


Shorenstein APARC
Stanford University
Encina Hall, Room E301
Stanford, CA 94305-6055

(650) 736-0656 (650) 723-6530

Michael (Mike) Breger joined APARC in 2021 and serves as the Center's communications manager. He collaborates with the Center's leadership to share the work and expertise of APARC faculty and researchers with a broad audience of academics, policymakers, and industry leaders across the globe. 

Michael started his career at Stanford working at Green Library, and later at the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies, serving as the event and communications coordinator. He has also worked in a variety of sales and marketing roles in Silicon Valley.

Michael holds a master's in liberal arts from Stanford University and a bachelor's in history and astronomy from the University of Virginia. A history buff and avid follower of international current events, Michael loves learning about different cultures, languages, and literatures. When he is not at work, Michael enjoys reading, music, and the outdoors.

Communications Manager

Southeast Asia Program director Donald K. Emmerson's essay by the above title appears in the just-published volume, Producing Indonesia: The State of the Field of Indonesian Studies, ed. Eric Tagliacozzo, available for purchase at the Cornell University Press.

The book's authors, to quote the publisher, reflect on "the development of Indonesian studies over recent tumultuous decades...Not everyone sees the development of Indonesian studies in the same way. Yet one senses—and this collection confirms—that disagreements among its practitioners have fostered a vibrant, resilient intellectual community."

The disagreements featured in Emmerson's chapter, to quote him, "arose over how to interpret two consequential changes of regime in Indonesia," namely, "the demise of liberal democracy and the rise of President Sukarno's leftward 'Guided Democracy' in 1959, and the latter's replacement by General Suharto's anti-leftist 'New Order' starting in 1965." At stake in these controversies were facts, minds, and formats: "perspectival commitments developed inside the minds, disciplines, and careers of professional analysts of Indonesia."

At the center of his essay lies a consequential question of choice: whether to maintain or to change one's argument in the face of evidence against it. The issue is framed at the outset of the essay by two contrasting quotations:  

“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

                                      -- John Maynard Keynes on the Great Depression

"I didn't change. The world changed."

                                      -- Dick Cheney on 9/11

About the Essay

The 26 scholars contributing to this volume, Producing Indonesia: The State of the Field of Indonesian Studies, ed. Eric Tagliacozzo, have helped shape the field of Indonesian studies over the last three decades. They represent a broad geographic background—Indonesia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, Canada—and have studied in a wide array of key disciplines—anthropology, history, linguistics and literature, government and politics, art history, and ethnomusicology. Together they reflect on the “arc of our field,” the development of Indonesian studies over recent tumultuous decades. They consider what has been achieved and what still needs to be accomplished as they interpret the groundbreaking works of their predecessors and colleagues.

This volume is the product of a lively conference sponsored by Cornell University, with contributions revised following those interactions. Not everyone sees the development of Indonesian studies in the same way. Yet one senses—and this collection confirms—that disagreements among its practitioners have fostered a vibrant, resilient intellectual community. Contributors discuss photography and the creation of identity, the power of ethnic pop music, cross-border influences on Indonesian contemporary art, violence in the margins, and the shadows inherent in Indonesian literature. These various perspectives illuminate a diverse nation in flux and provide direction for its future exploration.

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Cornell University Press
Donald K. Emmerson

In the early twentieth century, against the backdrop of colonial violence, the Japanese annexation of Korea, and World War I, religious and secular groups in East Asia voiced support for a new ethos of humanitarian internationalism.  This presentation examines the confluences between millenarian "new religions" such as Chŏndogyo (Korea), Ōmotokyō (Japan), and Daoyuan (China), Bahá'ís, Esperantists and other groups espousing world peace, gender and social equality, and religious unity.  Under the scrutiny of the Japanese imperial state, these communities presented teachings that were inimical to colonial hierarchies, but they had to do so without resort to the standard means and methods of social, economic, and political reform, such as protests, provocative civil disobedience, lobbying, electioneering, coercion, and either the threat or actual use of political violence.

Philippines Conference Room

Taylor Atkins Professor, Department of History, Northern Illinois University Speaker

Planners of United States postwar occupations in Japan and Korea anticipated the possibility of violence from overzealous Japanese who might refuse to accept their country’s defeat and revenge-seeking Koreans who might retaliate for colonial-era oppression. Though violence was evident in both Japan and Korea, it was far more intense on the peninsula than the archipelago. This paper examines this danger as one important dreg of Japanese colonial rule that divided the Korean people and disrupted their immediate post-liberation history. Its primary focus is on ramifications that these divisions and disruptions had on Korean politics and society in the period leading up to the Korean War.

CISAC Conference Room

Mark Caprio Professor of Korean History, College of Intercultural Communication, Rikkyo University Speaker

Since the resignation of Indonesia’s authoritarian president Suharto in 1998, the country has made great strides in consolidating a democratic government. But it is by no means a model of tolerance. The rights of religious minorities are routinely trampled. Regulations against blasphemy and proselytizing are routinely used to prosecute minorities including atheists, Ahmadiyah, Bahais, Christians, and Shias. As of 2012 Indonesia had over 280 religiously motivated regulations restricting minority rights. 

Hard-line groups such as the Islam Defenders Front use narrow interpretations of local and national legislation as a key tool to suppress minorities. In 2006 two ministers in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's cabinet jointly decreed stricter legal requirements for building a house of worship. The decree is enforced only on religious minorities, often when Islamists pressure local officials to refuse to authorize the construction of Christian churches or to harass those worshiping in “illegal” churches. More than 430 such churches have been closed since. Violent attacks on religious minorities have become more frequent—from 216 cases in 2010, to 244 in 2011, to 264 in 2012. What explains this record of intimidation? Can it be stopped, and if so, how?

Andreas Harsono is widely published. He co-wrote In Religion's Name: Abuses against Religious Minorities in Indonesia (Human Rights Watch, 2013). His commentaries appeared in 2012 in outlets ranging from The New York Times to The Myanmar Times. Other writings include My “Religion” Is Journalism (2010), a collection of his Indonesian-language essays. In 2003 he helped establish the Pantau Foundation, which trains Indonesian journalists and defends media freedom. In 1999 he was awarded a Nieman Fellowship on Journalism at Harvard. He co-founded the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (Bangkok,1998), the Institute for the Study of the Free Flow of Information (Jakarta, 1995), and the Alliance of Independent Journalists (Jakarta, 1994). Earlier in his career he edited Pantau, a monthly Indonesian magazine on journalism and the media. Still earlier he worked as a reporter for The Nation (Bangkok) and The Star (Kuala Lumpur). He describes himself as a “journalist-cum-activist”—an identity richly illustrated by his career.

Related Resources

Indonesia: Religious Minorities Targets of Rising Violence (HRW, press release)

Indonesia: Rising Violence Against Religious Minorities (HRW, slideshow)

In Religion’s Name: Abuses Against Religious Minorities in Indonesia (HRW, report)

Daniel and Nancy Okimoto Conference Room

Andreas Harsono Indonesia Researcher Speaker Human Rights Watch

How do jihadists and militant Papuan pro-independence groups in Indonesia analyze each other's behavior? How do government policies toward the two groups differ? Why does the murder of a policeman warrant a murder charge when committed by a Papuan guerrilla but a terrorism charge when committed by a jihadist? Why is speech in favor of independence banned but speech exhorting the killing of deviants allowed? Why are "deradicalisation" programs, such as they are, aimed only at jihadists and not at Papuan militants? Why is the Papuan independence flag banned while flags that promise an Islamic caliphate are allowed? Some inconsistencies may be unavoidable, but when "terrorists" are not producing mass casualties and some "rebels" are beginning to target civilians, it may be time to rethink policies toward both. Sidney Jones will address these disparities using evidence drawn from interviews and from these groups’ own statements and actions.

Sidney Jones is a globally acclaimed expert on inter-group conflict in Southeast Asia. Topics she has covered for ICG include radical Islamism and communal violence in Indonesia and the Philippines. Previously she held positions with Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Ford Foundation. Her writings in 2011–12 have appeared in Southeast Asian Affairs 2011, The Straits Times, and Strategic Review among other outlets. Her earlier work includes Making Money Off Migrants: The Indonesian Exodus to Malaysia (2000). A frequent media interviewee, she also lectures widely—most recently in Sydney on extremism and democracy in Indonesia at the Australian Institute of International Affairs. Based in Jakarta, she has spent Fall 2012 as a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.

Daniel and Nancy Okimoto Conference Room

Sidney Jones Senior Adviser, Asia Program Speaker International Crisis Group (ICG)

Why does ethnic violence in multi-ethnic states revolve around one identity rather than another? Why, for example, do some conflicts revolve around religion whereas others revolve around language? This is an important question for understanding ethnic bloodshed in a variety of plural states in Europe, Africa, Asia, and elsewhere.

Ajay Verghese has examined these questions through an investigation of India, one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. Using a mixed-methods research design that combines a quantitative analysis of 589 Indian districts with 15 months of archival work and elite interviews conducted in six case studies, he argues that the legacies of British colonial rule are the major determinant of contemporary patterns of ethnic conflict. 

Verghese finds that areas in India formerly under the control of British administrators experience more contemporary caste and tribal violence, but areas which remained under the control of autonomous native kings experience more religious conflict. Bifurcated colonial rule in India embedded master narratives of conflict in specific regions, reinforced them through local institutions, and ultimately engendered commonsensical understandings of how ethnic conflict is legitimately organized.

Colonialism in India became a model for later British expansion into parts of Africa and Southeast Asia, and this project therefore has major implications for understanding the historical roots of ethnic conflict in a number of multi-ethnic states around the world.

This is the first in a series of lectures by post-doctoral fellows at Shorenstein APARC presenting research on contemporary Asia.

Philippines Conference Room

Walter H. Shorenstein
Asia-Pacific Research Center
Encina Hall, Room C331
616 Serra St.
Stanford, CA 94305-6055

(650) 724-5656 (650) 723-6530
Shorenstein Postdoctoral Fellow

Ajay Verghese joined the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) during the 2012–13 academic year from The George Washington University, where he received his PhD in political science in August 2012.

His research interests are broadly centered on ethnicity, conflict, and South Asia. His doctoral dissertation, Colonialism and Patterns of Ethnic Conflict in Contemporary India, examines why ethnic conflicts in multi-ethnic states revolve around one identity rather than another. He argues that British colonial rule is the key determinant of contemporary patterns of ethnic violence in India. During his time at Shorenstein APARC, he converted his dissertation into a book manuscript.

Verghese has been published in Qualitative & Multi-Method Research, and has received funding for language training and fieldwork in India from a variety of sources, including the U.S. State Department, the American Institute of Indian Studies, the Sigur Center for Asian Studies, and the Konosuke Matsushita Memorial Foundation.

Verghese also holds a BA in political science and French from Temple University.

Ajay Verghese Shorenstein Postdoctoral Fellow Speaker Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University
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