At the September 2023 Annual Convention of the American Political Science Association (APSA), Professor Jeff Checkel was elected to a two-year term as President-elect of the Association's organised section for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research (QMMR). He will then subsequently serve as the Section's President in 2025, for a two-year term.
Checkel, who holds the Chair in International Politics in the Department of Political and Social Sciences (SPS), has taught the required qualitative methods seminar to all SPS doctoral researchers since 2020, and serves as the faculty sponsor of the EUI's interdisciplinary Qualitative and Fieldwork Working Group (Qualifie). At the 2023 APSA convention, he taught two 'short courses' on qualitative methods and process tracing—something he has offered at seven previous conventions.
In an interview, we asked Professor Checkel about this new challenge.
What does this position at APSA entail and what are your ambitions as incoming Section President?
The QMMR has grown to be one of APSA's three largest organised sections, with over 1100 members from both sides of the Atlantic. It also publishes a highly regarded newsletter, Qualitative and Multi-Method Research—to which I have contributed myself.
I have two ambitions for my time in the section's leadership. First, despite positive developments such as the growth of the QMMR's membership, political science tends to be dominated by neo-positivist, quantitative, and experimental approaches. Indeed, for many scholars, causal inference—established experimentally and quantitatively—is the "only game in town". In my view, the QMMR Section is ideally placed to broaden our methodological toolkit, thus helping us rethink what constitutes the "game". This broadening can succeed if there is more give-and-take among scholars on both sides of the Atlantic.
My second ambition is to turn the QMMR newsletter into a full-fledged peer reviewed journal.
You are well known for your book on process tracing, co-edited several years ago with Andrew Bennett. Does your current work reflect the aspirations of QMMR, and of qualitative research in general?
My research project, Institutions at Bay? Regional Integration and Identity, focuses on the resurgence of identity politics. I theorise the process of identity construction through a three-step argument that captures top-down and bottom-up dynamics, their interaction, and the politics of it all. Mine is a causal story, but one built upon a series of interpretive moves, theoretically and methodologically. It measures both what people say and what they do with respect to identity.
To test these arguments, the project team of EUI researchers and I use a variety of qualitative methods. These include interviews—positivist, as well as interpretive—and participant-observation (that is, political ethnography). I then employ both positivist process tracing and interpretive practice tracing to uncover and measure the causal and meaning-making dynamics leading to a change in identity.
My research is thus a very good fit for the pluralism that the QMMR Section embodies. I look forward to leading it!
Jeff Checkel's research interests include international relations theory (domestic–international linkages, international institutions, constructivism, governance), conflict studies (civil war), and European integration (Europeanisation, identity), as well as qualitative methods. He has published broadly on these topics, including four books from Cambridge University Press and one volume from Yale University Press.