Areas of Study
Social Networks, Organizations, Social Change/Social Movements, Political Sociology, Peace and Conflict Studies, Middle Eastern Studies
Michelle Sawwan is a first-year Ph.D. student and a Presidential Fellow in the joint Peace Studies and Sociology Program through the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and the Department of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame. Michelle received her Bachelor’s degree in Arabic Language and Literature and Spanish Language at the University of Virginia (with honors). Her undergraduate research examined how social encounters between members of opposing student organizations on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict shaped activism within an individual’s own partisan group. Her master’s thesis then investigated how the exigencies of life during wartime and intensified sectarian affiliations during the Lebanese Civil War reified or altered existing male hierarchies of power in Lebanon. It explored how affects such as fear can have a powerful effect on the social structures that come under duress in a conflict situation – in this case, drastically intensifying preexisting male social ties pertaining to religious sects, business networks, and families.
Michelle’s background in intercultural relations and social justice has given her a lens for processes of social reconciliation both locally and globally, as they are mediated by the social networks of parties to situations of conflict. She will seek to explore how discursive and relational dynamics of social networks affect individual and group identity and decision-making, and how these decisions affect political affiliation, participation in social movements, and changes in identity and affiliation over time. In particular, she is interested in investigating the nexus between processes of identification and affiliation in local and regional social networks and movements, and how these either alleviate or exacerbate national or international conflicts in the Middle East.