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Successful World Coups 1946-2012

As a post-baccalaureate fellow at the Data Analysis and Social Inquiry Lab (DASIL), Adam Lauretig ’13 is making it easier for others to visualize complex datasets.

Lauretig was first introduced to the Polity IV project — run by the Center for Systemic Peace — in Danielle Lussier’s political science course Democratization and the Politics of Regime Change.

Using data from the project, he’s created an interactive map illustrating successful coups d'état that occurred from 1946 to 2012. “This particular map would be useful for anyone interested in political instability or development, since it makes geographic trends in coups visible in ways that might not be apparent simply by looking at a spreadsheet, he says. “For example, the high frequency of coups in South America becomes clear, as does the fact that by the end of the Cold War, coups became less frequent.”

The map allows you to select a year or range of years to see which countries had coups during that time, or to “play” the map to view the year-to-year changes in where they coups occur. The map, Lauretig says, “does not indicate the length of the resulting regime, seeking instead to visualize frequency.”

“The most interesting part of the project was noticing trends in the data and learning more about what ArcGIS (our mapping software) could do,” says Lauretig, “I was working alone, and the data had to be put together by hand: matching coups with the shapefile (an image of the country linked to tabular data) for the country where they occurred.  What stood out to me was how a country that underwent one coup was likely to undergo another, and they often occurred within a decade of each other, suggesting that instability begets instability.”

About the Map

The map: Successful World Coups 1946-2012

The Polity IV codebook defines a coup d'état as “a forceful seizure of executive authority and office by a dissident/opposition faction within the country’s ruling or political elites that results in a substantial change in the executive leadership and the policies of the prior regime.” In a successful coup “authority must be exercised by new executive for at least one month.” 

Data compiled by:

  • Adam Lauretig '13.

GIS shapefiles created by:

  • Nils B. Weidmann,
  • Doreen Kuse, and
  • Kristian Skrede Gleditsch.

Data sources/Works cited:

  • Marshall, Monty G., Donna Ramsey Marshall. 2013. Coups d'Etat 1946-2013. Center for Systemic Peace.
  • Weidmann, Nils B., Doreen Kuse, and Kristian Skrede Gleditsch. 2010. The Geography of the International System: The CShapes Dataset. International Interactions 36 (1).

How We Die Now: Intimacy and the Work of Dying

Karla Erickson, sociology, began work on her newest book — How We Die Now: Intimacy and the Work of Dying — after she observed the spiritual, physical, and emotional support hospice workers provided her dying grandparents.

Erickson, a feminist ethnographer of labor, immerses herself in the occupational and social worlds she studies. To develop a deep understanding of the working lives and occupational wisdom of end-of-life workers, she trained as a nurse’s aide.

She and 12 of her students partnered with a retirement community, using participant observation and interviews with administrators, nurses, chaplains, volunteers, residents, and family caregivers to understand the dynamics of aging and preparing for death in an elder community. Grinnell is a destination for retirees and has several excellent elder communities. Grinnell’s trusting, small-town culture welcomed Erickson and her students; participants gave them intimate access to the final chapter of life.

How We Die Now book cover

“In the 21st century, many of us are living longer, dying more slowly, and more important, dying differently than our ancestors,” she says in an article in the fall 2013 issue of The Grinnell Magazine. In it Erickson offers eight lessons she’s learned to help those “navigating the transition from life to death.”

She joined Charity Nebbe in an interview on Iowa Public Radio to discuss the book and current elder and hospice care.

Her earlier book, The Hungry Cowboy: Service and Community in a Neighborhood Restaurant, is a behind-the-scenes look at class, community, and gendered labor in a Tex-Mex restaurant.

Learn More:

Students Pursue Independent Studies

Grinnellians bring their interests into the classroom, using assignments to study the things they are most interested in. But when they can’t otherwise fit a topic into their curriculum, they turn to guided reading (200-level) and independent study (300-level) coursework to explore it further.

Students in guided readings and independent studies design an independent project and work closely with a faculty directory. The courses might include things like reading of a body of literature, reproducing published scientific experiments, learning advanced techniques, or exploring an art.

Some topics being pursued Fall 2013 include:

  • Voices from Cairo
  • Interdisciplinary Studies of Wine
  • The Philosophy of Science in Education
  • The History of Myanmar
  • Hellenistic Ethics
  • Poisson-Dirac Brackets
  • Modern Board Game Design
  • Advanced Web Application Development — Local Foods
  • Gender in Malaysian National Identity
  • Food Sources
  • Dido and Aeneas in 17th Century Politics
  • Anomalous Magnetism

Fire and Ice

Two courses of students and faculty participated in international field trips during winter break 2013. 

Kathy Jacobson and Peter Jacobson, associate professors of biology, traveled with students from their Namib Desert Ecology course. 

Students in Korea's Economic Development course traveled with Jack Mutti, Sidney Meyer Professor in International EconomicsKeith Brouhle ’96, associate professor of economics; and Man-Ching Chan, assistant professor of economics. 

For more about the courses, see "Fire & Ice" from The Grinnell Magazine Spring 2013.

Old World Prehistory

Sun, 2013-03-03 22:29 | By Anonymous (not verified)

In my Old World Prehistory class I use bronze axes to teach about the impact of early technologies. Even prehistoric tools come from complex systems. Before you have a bronze axe, you have mines and all the tools to work them, the high temperature fire technology of smelting and casting, ceramics and stone carving for moulds, and so on.

For the class project, we start with the cast axe blade. I carved a wooden form copying axes from the early Bronze Age in Britain (ca 1800 BC), which was reproduced in modern bronze by MaxCast Foundry in Kalona. Each student received a bronze axe head and had a couple of days of after class work to make hafts for them. Modern tools were used, but everyone cames to see that many tools are needed to make the axe, and those tools also have a background of previous tools and technologies, ad infinitum. The complex technologies of making bronze imply the involvement of skilled specialists, and the possibility of control and exploitation by the elite of the time. Armed with axes, the class looked for something to cut. John McIntyre kindly allowed the class to fell a few trees on his property. At this point we quickly learned that a technology is not just material, but also involves learned skills - few of the class had ever used an axe before. For class purposes, the point was to use the axes enough to have a subjective feel for them, compare and think about the different hafts, and compare the bronze tools to modern hatchets, and to a couple of stone axes. To produce a bit of quantified data to analyze, each student chopped through a measured section of log with both their bronze axe and a modern hatchet, recording time spent, number of strokes, and amount of wood removed. For further experience, the class constructed something appropriate to the Bronze Age, but reasonably simple. This year the class built a “monument,” an arch constructed with mortise and tenon, and several posts with axe-carved decoration. If you look closely at the monument, you can see some symbolic oppositions that were probably also in the minds of Bronze Age monument builders: Earth/Sky, Male/Female, Nature/Culture. Monument building is a social event. In the Bronze Age, there was presumably religious ritual involved; they reflected on this by burying “valuables” (pennies) under the posts. A monument reflects the power and responsibilities of leadership. I provided stew for a “feast” as we sat on the lawn for the academic discussion of their project. The monument stood for a few weeks as a display; the students could “enhance their status” by pointing to a monument they helped build. The class also commemorated the event with a group photo, and the class somewhat satirically insisted on reflecting in a second photo on my powerful position as professor and Bronze Age chieftain.

Teacher Advisory Committee

The Teacher Advisory Committee of local educators meets biannually and reports to the state of Iowa. It enhances the Grinnell College Education Program's communication and cooperation with area schools to provide an excellent pre-service teaching education for Grinnell students, advises faculty on student teaching evaluations, and makes suggestions about enhancing Grinnell’s curriculum.