Jaime Lee Kucinskas

Assistant Professor of Sociology Jaime Kucinskas and Postdoctoral Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology Yagmur Karakaya recently presented papers at the Interdisciplinary Collaborative Workshop virtual conference on “Democracy Under Threat in Times of Populism and Racial Nationalism.”

Kucinskas’ paper, “The Stable State? Federal Employees’ Responses to Emergent Authoritarianism,” was presented in a session on “Resistance, Exclusion, Crisis, and the State.”

“While under the Trump administration, critics of the federal civil service were quick to decry it a ‘deep state’ thwarting the President’s agenda, most extant research instead describes the career corps as marked by loyalty to mission, risk aversion, and serial partisanship,” Kucinskas said.

Looking at the first three years of Donald Trump’s administration, Kucinskas’ research asked “whether this characterization holds under conditions of budding autocracy and unprecedented efforts to dismantle the administrative state.”

Kucinskas discussed the implications of the findings showing that “despite widespread dissatisfaction with the Trump administration, most career bureaucrats sought to comply with its directives,” and that although “civil servants may engage in resistance to a political administration outside of work, their responses at work are circumscribed by what they define as appropriately within the scope of their mandates.”

Yagmur Karakaya
Yagmur Karakaya    Photo: Nancy L. Ford

Karakaya presented “Populist Rallies in United States: Nostalgia as a Force of State Mobilization” in a session on “Populist Mobilizations, Authoritarian Regimes, and Global Justice.” Her research was focused on how Donald Trump convinced people he could be “a hero in their story” and how he “linked their story and American identity.”

An analysis of Trump rallies in four different regions of the U.S. from 2015 to 2020 identified “four cultural idioms through which these rallies create two crucial fusions: a fusion of Trump into his followers’ deep story as a hero figure, which turns a lament into an adventure; and a fusion of this new adventure story into a narrative of American restoration.”

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