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Dr. Sandra R. Leavitt

Assistant Professor


Research Interests
Social mobilization and contentious politics, Southeast Asia, Policymaking in developing states, Muslim minorities and state-minority relations

Sandra Leavitt joined the faculty of the NPS in June 2009. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Government at Georgetown University with a focus on comparative politics and international relations. She received an M.A. in Southeast Asia Studies from The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies and a B.S. in Speech Communication from Oregon State University. She has taught at the University of California at Santa Cruz, Catholic University of America, Georgetown University, and the U.S. Department of State Foreign Service Institute.

Dr. Leavitt specializes in the social mobilization of nonstate actors as they engage or challenge the state. Her research has focused on internal conflict in Asia, policymaking in developing states, nationalism, democratization, and security cooperation. She holds a special interest in state-minority relations in Asia and Muslim minorities. While Thailand is her primary country of research, she has expertise in Asia more broadly.

Her dissertation examined the management of state-Muslim minority relations in Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Burma/Myanmar, Sri Lanka and China. It revealed how shifts in state policy have overwhelmingly contributed to cooperation or conflict by Muslim communities. Her research concludes that how a policy is carried out—the shifting of incentives through persuasion, coercion and neglect—has a stronger impact on minority strategy choices than does the unicultural or multicultural nature of state policies. She has also found that policies toward Muslim minorities have been shaped considerably by intra-governmental conflict, state-majority concerns, and international relations, not by state-minority dynamics as is often assumed. State actors have acted as spoilers to peace with respect to geographically concentrated minorities, thus perpetuating unrest.

Her publications include “Understanding the Lack of Security Cooperation Between Southeast Asia and Japan: Yen Yes, PaxNippon No;” regular contributions to the Shingetsu Institute for the Study of Japanese-Islamic Relations online journal; a book review of Rohan Gunaratna, Arabinda Acharya, and Sabrina Chua, Conflict and Terrorism in Southern Thailand (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Publisher, 2005), in Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 30, issue 4 (April 2007), 370-3; and co-authorship with RAND Corporation’s Dr. Greg Treverton of “Russia and Eurasia, and the Future of Multilateral Export Controls on Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Technology,” and “A Framework for Addressing the Risks of Counterterrorism Technology Transfer: Implications for Russia and Eurasia.”

Dr. Leavitt has over 22 years of experience in program management, program development, and conference management in higher education; academic grant writing and management; international education; government-community collaboration; and publication of academic papers and public relations material. She has led study tours and curriculum development initiatives in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, and China.

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