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About the Talk

WWII and its aftermath precipitated the largest episode of forced migration in history. In 1944-51, nearly 20 million people, including 12 million Germans and 5 million Poles, were uprooted from their homes and resettled elsewhere. Population transfers on such a massive scale profoundly diversified societies within states. I ask how migrants from different regions and countries learned to live together in their new communities and why some uprooted populations are economically better off than others today. Using hand-collected archival and census data from Poland and Germany, I find that the erosion of informal norms and networks in communities where migrants and natives were culturally distant from one another shored up the role of formal state institutions in the provision of public goods and welfare. Greater willingness to engage with state institutions in communities diversified through forced migration contributed to the accumulation of state capacity over time and paid off in the long run: such communities register higher entrepreneurship and personal incomes than more homogeneous counterparts.

About the Speaker:

Volha Charnysh joined MIT’s Department of Political Science in the fall of 2018. In 2017-2018, she was a fellow at the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance at the Princeton University Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. She received her PhD in Government from Harvard University in May 2017.

Dr. Charnysh’s research focuses on historical political economy, legacies of violence, nation- and state-building, and ethnic politics. Her book project examines the long-run effects of forced migration in the aftermath of World War II in Eastern Europe, synthesizing several decades of micro-level data collected during a year of fieldwork in Poland, funded by the Social Science Research Council and Center for European Studies.

Dr. Charnysh’s work has appeared in the American Political Science ReviewComparative Political Studiesand the European Journal of International RelationsHer dissertation won the 2018 Ernst B. Haas Best Dissertation prize, awarded by the European Politics and Society Section of the American Political Science Association, as well as the Best Dissertation Prize, awarded by the Migration & Citizenship Section. Dr. Charnysh has also contributed articles to Foreign AffairsMonkey Cage at the Washington Post, National InterestTransitions OnlineArms Control TodayBelarus Digest, and other media.