Ohio State Navbar

The Ohio State University

Mershon Center for International Security Studies

Danielle Fosler-Lussier

Principal Investigator: Danielle Fosler-Lussier, School of Music

Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, the United States Information Agency sent packets containing music recordings, scores, and lectures about music to its information centers and binational centers around the world. These centers drew crowds with “concerts of recorded music” and scheduled weekly listening hours at which recordings would be played on request.

Surprisingly, the music played was not simply well-known classical or modern jazz. Rather, the packets contained a diversity of styles including classical, jazz, choral, folk, pop, show tunes, and church music. Much of the music was composed by African-Americans, Latinos, women, and immigrants. Famous composers were represented, as were composers now forgotten.

These packets represented what the State Department and USIA wanted other countries to know about American music and culture. What accounts for their diversity?

In this book project, based in part on newly declassified documents from the National Archives, Danielle Fosler-Lussier argues that the USIA’s music program was supported by an extensive program of voluntary citizen activity led largely by women.

Because Congress mandated that the USIA use private resources where possible, officials outsourced work to voluntary organizations such as the American Symphony Orchestra League, People-to-People Music Committee, and the UNESCO-sponsored National Music Council. These groups included composers, performers and educators who saw their role as advancing the cause of music. They took advantage of the USIA’s resources — often in roundabout and ingenious ways — to make American music accessible both in the United States and abroad.

The women who ran these organizations understood the government’s need to portray the diversity of American culture in a positive light, and they cultivated music by a diverse collection of composers to meet this need. These state and private efforts combined to create a sense of musical nationhood during the Cold War.

The performances and recordings helped the United States assert its place within the global order, claiming prestige and articulating a national identity. Unlike countries that presented only particular elements of their cultures, the United States chose to emphasize its diversity and the variety of citizen participation. In turn, U.S. government funding supported musicians of varying backgrounds within the United States, allowing the image presented abroad to become true at home.

Fosler-Lussier’s book will be accompanied by a web database, tentatively called “America’s Music Collection,” which will offer scholars and musicians access to the USIA’s chosen music, including excerpts from scores and complete audio recordings. With colleagues and students in the School of Music, she is leading a project to perform and record many of these works.

A grant from the Mershon Center funded much of Fosler-Lussier’s research at locations such as the National Archives, New York Public Library, and Library of Congress. Based on that research, she received a College of Arts and Sciences Larger Grant to help fund costs for the web database, recordings, and further research travel.


Katherine Marino

Principal Investigator: Katherine Marino, Department of History

Katherine Marino’s work provides historical depth and transnational contextualization to notions of human rights, state sovereignty, diplomacy in the Americas, international law, and international women’s rights.

Grounded in the histories of social movements, women and gender, and international relations, this book project examines how transnational feminism in the interwar years shaped inter-American diplomacy and influenced the formation of international human rights.

Marino’s book explores a network of U.S. and Latin American women’s rights leaders and diplomats who, through Pan-American inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations, pioneered the first international laws in women’s rights.

Ultimately, this group was responsible for pushing women’s rights into the framework of international human rights at the 1945 creation of the United Nations following World War II.

In addition to revealing a diversity of approaches to feminism in the Americas, Marino’s research uncovers the strong role that Latin American feminists and diplomats together played in shaping international human rights. Their formulation of international human rights sought to uphold state sovereignty and liberal multilateralism in the face of U.S. hegemony.

Marino reveals that the idea of “women’s rights are human rights,” often assumed to be a product of U.S.-Western European liberal democratic and feminist thought, was in fact forged through transnational collaboration in a context of fraught U.S.-Latin American relations and merged socialist and liberal feminist traditions.

Drawing on transnational concepts of feminism and liberal internationalism, Pan-American activists championed a broad definition of human rights that included not only equal political and civil rights but also equal social and economic justice for men and women, as well as international multilateralism.

This research also contributes to new histories of Pan-Americanism, showing how gendered concerns advanced inter-American alliances in ways that sometimes mirrored and other times clashed with official U.S. State-Department-led hemispheric goals.

Marino reveals the key role that debates around women’s rights and feminists themselves played in forging broader definitions of inter-American multilateralism, democracy, and human rights, and in official Pan-American diplomacy.

As the first transnational and sustained history of Pan-American feminism, Marino’s book is rooted in multinational archival research from the United States, Cuba, Panama, Uruguay, and Chile, where she examined extensive diplomatic, organizational, and personal papers.

Funding from the Mershon Center supported Marino’s research trip to Brazil, where she investigated the archives of Brazilian feminist and diplomat Bertha Lutz, one of the central figures in her project, at the Arquivo Nacional and Arquivo Histórico do Itamaraty, both in Rio de Janeiro. Marino also did research in the Arquivo do Estado de São Paulo.

This research will enable Marino to finish her book manuscript, in which both the University of Pennsylvania Press and Harvard University Press have expressed interest.

Marcel Yotebieng

Principal Investigators: Marcel Yotebieng, College of Public Health, Joseph Tien, Department of Mathematics

In 2014, the United Nations declared Ebola a threat to international security after West Africa saw 23,000 cases of the virus with more than 9,000 deaths. In order to make policy decisions on how to handle such outbreaks, officials need an understanding of how the virus spreads.

In this project, Marcel Yotebieng and Joseph Tien are creating mathematical models to better understand the networks through which the Ebola virus is spread. To do this, they are analyzing an outbreak that occurred from July to October 2014 in the Equateur province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, causing 69 suspected cases of the virus with 49 deaths.

Reconstruction of this network will allow the researchers to identify key network features such as contacts within the home, contacts between villages, and contacts through health care centers. This analysis will allow them to construct mathematical models that can be applied to other outbreaks, informing decisions about travel restrictions, quarantine, and vaccination campaigns.

The Ebola outbreak in Equateur province included one town and six villages with a health care center. The first case originated from eating bush meat, then spread through a funeral for the victim, infection in the hospital, and to other villages, where it was transmitted through homes.

>By examining such variables as number of contacts between individuals, their occupation, age, and gender, travel between communities, contact at mass events, and common travel to the health center, Yotebieng and Tien can create mathematical models of disease transmission.

Of special interest is how contact with different segments of the population changes over the course of the infection, and the role of health care workers who have heightened contact with infected people just as the disease is most transmissible.

A grant from the Mershon Center allowed Yotebieng to hire public health personnel in the DRC to collate and digitize data regarding the outbreak of Ebola in Equateur province.

This research is part of a larger study examining Ebola dynamics funded by a short-term grant from the National Science Foundation. Yotebieng and Tien will use the results to apply for long-term grants from NSF and National Institutes of Health. 

Principal Investigator: Lisa Bhungalia, Department of Geography

In the West Bank and Gaza, it’s known as “the paper” – a seven-page certification that Palestinian agencies must sign to receive assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Signing the document confirms they do not have connections to or endorse terrorist activity.

Rather than sign, Palestinian nongovernmental organizations and civil society groups staged a boycott of the U.S. Agency for International Development in 2003. The reason? On the list of designated terrorists was a disproportionate number of Palestinian groups and individuals, including Hamas. While the agencies did not want to use U.S. aid to help terrorists, they also didn’t think what is and is not terrorism should be defined solely by the United States.

Controversy over the anti-terrorism certification is one example of the role that organizations usually considered civilian or humanitarian can play in the U.S. global war on terror. In this project, Lisa Bhungalia sets out to study the relationship between U.S. national security policy and foreign aid governance through the operation of USAID in Gaza and the West Bank.

USAID operates one of the largest aid programs in the occupied Palestinian territories, and as such exercises considerable influence over how aid is distributed across the region. Its framework is influenced mainly by the U.S.-Israel security relationship. Israel receives $3 billion a year in U.S. assistance, or $118 billion since World War II. This shapes American policy to the Palestinians, most importantly through the adoption of an Israeli perspective on the conflict.

Globally and in the occupied territories, USAID now operates largely by awarding grants to NGOs, civil society groups, and private firms. These intermediary bodies are responsible for collecting information from potential aid recipients for screening in U.S. databases, and for getting clients to sign anti-terrorism certifications. Through such mechanisms, even humanitarian aid agencies can act as part of U.S. national security apparatus.

Bhungalia had already conducted 13 months of ethnographic research in Palestine in 2010-12. A grant from the Mershon Center allowed her to return to for a final phase of data collection to integrate the perspectives of multiple players. She conducted interviews with officials at the USAID offices in Tel Aviv, private firms and contracting agencies, international and U.S. nongovernmental organizations, Palestinian NGOs and charities, local beneficiaries, the local Palestinian Authority, and academics, researchers, and activists. She also conducted participant observations at the Dalia Foundation and Center for Development Studies at Birzeit University.

Bhungalia presented her findings at the Critical Conference in Geography and will incorporate them into her forthcoming book, “From the American People”: Aid, Counterinsurgency, and the U.S. National Security State in Palestine, which has garnered interest from University of Minnesota Press.

Ying Zhang

Principal Investigator: Ying Zhang, Department of History

In this project, Ying Zhang studies political prisoners and religion in Ming China (1368-1644), a dynasty that occupies a significant place in Chinese political history. It examines how Confucian and Buddhist practices shaped the ways in which prison served as a space of power negotiation, identity-formation, and networking for scholar-officials and generals, in order to provide an in-depth analysis of political communications during the period.

Zhang’s research relates to international security in two ways. First, it examines the institutions that manage violent conflict in early modern China. It asks the following questions: How was violence defined, measured, and experienced in official politics? What was the relationship between violence and conflict? How did various institutions — emperorship, bureaucracy, literati culture, religion, and Confucian family system — function as instruments of negotiation and mediation? And finally, from the perspective of the 21st century, what can we learn from the Ming institutional advantages and limitations in terms of managing violent conflict?

Second, the project explains the ideas, identities, and decisional processes that affected security in Ming China by exploring the following questions related to decision-making: How did the state set, negotiate, and balance its various political priorities? How did the elite themselves reach compromises and make reconciliations? How did religious beliefs affect the forms of punishments and officials’ self-identities and self-expression in these processes?

Zhang’s research project will become the first book to simultaneously engage three historiographical fields: the history of prisons, history of religion, and early modern Chinese political culture. Examining two underexplored topics in the history of prisons — the “prison before the prison” and prison culture, it will be the first English-language monograph on pre-modern Chinese prisons.

The book will offer a comparison with early modern Europe, as it engages western scholarship on prison literature and religious-political persecution. Most importantly, from a unique analytical angle, this research aims to rewrite the political history of the Ming dynasty.

Conventionally, the Ming political system is understood to be inherently vulnerable, an obstacle to “modernizing” Chinese political structure. By investigating political communications on both individual and institutional levels, this project will illustrate how fundamental ideals and practices in Chinese political culture — some of which have persisted until today — adapted in the changing historical conditions.

In order to integrate the studies of prison culture, religion, and official politics in early modern China, this project will adopt an interdisciplinary approach. It will draw upon scholarship in religious studies, political science, and art history and intend to make important contributions to these fields.

Zhang’s primary sources include court documents, religious writings, letters, poetry, scholarly publications, travelogues, diaries, paintings and calligraphic works, family genealogies, biographies, and vernacular novels.

A grant from the Mershon Center allowed Zhang to travel to China for research in the Rare Book Collection at the Chinese National Library in Beijing and Shanghai, for the first stage of her research. Her findings will be used to apply for a larger foundation grant.