This coming fall, Yale’s Political Science Department will add to its expertise in civil wars.
Professor Stathis Kalyvas, currently at the University of Chicago, will join Yale as a senior professor specializing in the logic of civil war and violence. A prominent writer and researcher, Kalyvas will likely offer classes on civil strife and violence in addition to more traditional areas of political science, such as political parties and comparative politics, said department chairman Ian Shapiro.
Kalyvas said he would also like to become involved in Yale’s interdisciplinary programs.
“One place I’d like to explore would be the program in economics, philosophy and ethics,” Kalyvas said. “A lot of my future colleagues are enthusiastic about the quality of and teaching in that program.”
Shapiro, who announced the appointment last week, said he is eagerly anticipating Kalyvas’ arrival.
“We hope and expect that he will be at Yale for a long time,” Shapiro said. “I anticipate he’s going to be a big presence around the University.”
Kalyvas said he accepted Yale’s offer primarily because of the department’s excellent faculty.
“It was very difficult to resist an offer from a university such as Yale, where the Political Science Department has been very successful in recent years in hiring very interesting people,” Kalyvas said. “It’s hard to resist a department that has people whose work is interesting and whose research affects my own work.”
Meanwhile, University of Chicago political science chairman John Brehm said he was disappointed about Kalyvas’ departure, claiming that a replacement for Kalyvas will be difficult to find.
“We’re going to miss him, and he is a very fortunate hire [for Yale]. He’s the kind of person departments are built around,” Brehm said. “People of Stathis’ talent do not come around often, so in a sense, he’s irreplaceable.”
At Chicago, Brehm said, students praised Kalyvas for being enthusiastically involved in their studies.
“He is extremely accessible — not just in having an open door, also having a mind that pays attention to what students are working through,” Brehm said. “He’s not only accessible but interested in how students are thinking.”
Kalyvas said he avoids circumscribed studies of political science and focuses more on the actual problems he is trying to solve.
“I try to explore ways in which we can study without losing a sense of reality — there is a tendency to focus and forget the problems we are trying to solve,” Kalyvas said. “I try to approach problems from a perspective that does not distort the richness and complexity of social and political phenomena.”
Yale political science and School of Management professor Joseph LaPalombara said he is looking forward to working with Kalyvas.
“[Kalyvas] is actually interested in the big questions about politics — and not in the arid and intellectually poverty-ridden sense of pretending that its complexities can be captured and reduced to a formal model,” LaPalombara said.
Focusing on the motivations of civil war and the role of identity in that struggle, Kalyvas began his research in his homeland of Greece.
“I got this idea to talk to people who had lived through civil war and began the research in Greece,” Kalyvas said. “My preconceptions were all wrong. Often identities were not the cause of violence, but violence caused the identities to form. This is how I got interested in civil war.”
After years of extensive research, Kalyvas said he is currently writing a book on civil war, which he expects to release in a year and a half.
“I’m writing a book right now that summarizes some of this research,” Kalyvas said. “There are many open questions that I hope to address in coming years along those lines. This book will only begin to address the question.”