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Undergraduate Researchers

Betty Irungu, Political Science

Ethnic Identity and election Violence

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Tyson King-Meadows

This study aims to evaluate two major concepts. The first concept is the role that identity politics play within Kenyan politics. The second concept to be evaluated is the effect of the reforms of the governance in Kenya, on citizenship. This is an eight -week cumulative study and is divided into three components. The first component analyzes how informal social institutions, such as ethnic identity, inform political culture, through open-ended interviews of targeted citizen stake holders through focus group interviews. The second component, content analysis of newspapers in Kenya, analyzes the frequency of ethnic-based terms and themes in print media and the effect on the electoral process. The final component is the analysis of the semi-structured interviews and identification of patterns and analysis of published regional survey data from the Afrobarometer. Kenyan political culture heavily favors regional and tribal stratification rather than national identity. Tribalism, which sparked and acerbated the election violence following the December 2007 General election, reinforces regional identity, rather than multiethnic national identity. The main battle should be over preserving political institutions which have promoted growth and not the futile attempt to save the current political institutions. This project will establish where and how this battle may be fought.

How did you find your mentor for this project?

I found my mentor for this project, Dr. King-Meadows, after having taken several courses in the Department of Political Science.

How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?

My project began shortly after reading the current events on the issue, which led me to seek more information.

Is this your first independent research project?

Yes, this is my first independent research project.

Do you get course credit for this work?

Yes, the work for my Undergraduate Research Award is the raw data for my honors thesis in Political Science.

How much time do you put into it?

I typically put in several hours a week either reading or summarizing the relevant literature.

How did you hear about the Undergraduate Research Award program?

I heard about the Undergraduate Research Award through the Department of Political Science in my course on Research Methods in Political Science (POLI 301).

What academic background did you have before you started?

I am a Sondheim Public Affairs Scholar and I have worked on other research projects with my mentor.

You have a $1,500 Undergraduate Research Award from UMBC for your work. Was the application difficult to do?

The URA application was challenging as it required attention to detail and knowledge of how my work would contribute to the body of scholarly work on the topic.

How much did your mentor help you with this?

My mentor provided useful information and journal articles as well as a foundation upon which to further build my idea into a URA project.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?

Research is a great way to challenge oneself academically as well as a wonderful preparation for graduate study.

What are your career goals?

I intend to pursue a law degree and a Ph.D. in Political Science or Public Policy.

What has been the hardest part about your research?

The hardest part about my research has been reading the scholarly material on the topic.

What was the most unexpected thing?

The most unexpected thing was my excitement in finding other scholars who share my interests!

How does your research relate to your work in other classes?

My research has helped me in my critical thinking and significantly challenged me to apply relevant scholarly research in my other coursework.