Alise Coen, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay

Year of PhD: 2009

Country: United States (Wisconsin)

About Me:

Dr. Alise Coen is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Her research interests include refugees, human rights, global governance, identity, and U.S. foreign policy, and her work has appeared in journals such as International Relations, Ethics & International Affairs, Politics & Religion, and The International Journal of Human Rights. She is currently working on a book project about U.S. refugee responsibility-sharing in the wake of the Syrian conflict and 2016 elections. While earning her graduate degree, Dr. Coen conducted field research in Egypt and worked with the State Department's Middle East Partnership Initiative Student Leaders Program.

Research Interests

Human Rights


Foreign Policy

Immigration & Citizenship

Human Rights Norms



Refugee Policy

Syrian Refugee Crisis

Responsibility To Protect




US Foreign Policy

Migration And Displacement

Global Governance

Human Rights

North Africa MiddleEast

International Law

International Relations Theory

Countries of Interest

United States


My Research:

My research explores connections among displacement, human rights, and U.S. foreign policy. I am particularly interested in developing theoretical perspectives for better understanding how forced migration and international human rights principles at the global level interact with domestic political forces and identity narratives. The dynamics of securitization and identity-construction vis-à-vis minority groups have been prominent themes in my research, along with global governance and human rights norms.


Journal Articles:

(2019) Can't Be Held Responsible: Weak Norms and Refugee Protection Evasion, International Relations

States have increasingly moved away from refugee protection, intensifying the vulnerability of refugees and asylum-seekers. Drawing on theories of norm dynamics within International Relations (IR), this article argues that departures from refugee protection can be partly explained by the weakness of the normative principles governing the treatment of individuals fleeing persecution. Ambiguities, diverging interpretations, and varying levels of codification complicate efforts to hold states accountable to a complex bundle of human rights standards surrounding refugee and asylum protection. These weaknesses in the international refugee regime bolster norm-evading behavior wherein governments deliberately minimize their obligations while claiming technical compliance. Drawing on an analysis of US refugee and asylum policies under the Trump administration, the article reveals how norm evasion and accountability challenges emerge in the context of ambiguous standards vis-à-vis non-refoulement, non-detention, non-penalization, non-discrimination, and refugee responsibility-sharing.

(2018) International Order, The Rule of Law, and U.S. Departures from Refugee Protection, International Journal of Human Rights

Compliance with international human rights norms and respect for the rule of law are mutually sustaining pillars of a liberal international order. State behaviours undermining customary and jus cogens legal norms are exceptionally disruptive to possibilities of global justice. This article posits that non-refoulement and a responsibility to protect refugees are connected to universally binding and peremptory norms in important ways such that state violations of these principles undermine the premises of international legal order. The article focuses on US norm violations in these areas, contextualising policy changes under the Trump administration within previous US departures from refugee protection principles. Given the position of the United States as a hegemonic and democratic actor in the international system, the article argues that US actions contra non-refoulement and efforts to shirk refugee responsibility-sharing in the wake of jus cogens crimes are particularly damaging to the foundations of global human rights governance and attendant notions of legitimacy and the rule of law.

(2017) Capable and Culpable? The United States, RtoP, and Refugee Responsibility-Sharing, Ethics and International Affairs

Facilitating access to asylum and other forms of refugee protection for the millions displaced by mass atrocities in Syria and Iraq is essential to the implementation of the international norm of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP). This responsibility, however, has been disproportionately shouldered by several states in the Middle East and Europe. This article explores the challenges associated with refugee responsibility-sharing in the context of RtoP and draws on work in climate justice and political realism to articulate a framework for integrating culpability as a key criterion in allocating states’ responsibilities to protect refugees. An empirical and normative assessment of U.S. responsibilities to protect refugees in the cases of conflict-induced displacement in Syria and Iraq outlines several potential paths of culpability. The article ultimately argues for greater attention to culpability, equity, and legitimacy within the discourse surrounding RtoP and refugee protection. The article also advocates linking the benefits of refugee responsibility-sharing with states’ national interests and highlights several such links with regard to U.S. responsibilities in Syria and Iraq.

(2017) Securitization, Normalization, and Rhetoric about Islam in the U.S. Senate, Politics and Religion

This study explores depictions of Islam in Senate rhetoric across the 106th (1999–2000) and 111th (2009–2010) Congresses. These two periods are compared to consider overall patterns in congressional discourse on Islam and to explore how the September 11th, 2001 attacks might have shaped this discourse. The study also examines the possible effects of ideology, partisanship, and senator religious affiliation on representations of Islam. The article ultimately suggests that despite some important post-September 11 shifts in Senate rhetoric pertaining to Islam, persistent themes regarding securitization, Orientalist tendencies, moderate-fundamentalist dichotomizations, and ideological divisions merit scrutiny. This study contributes to work on Congress, religion, and American politics by assessing trends in the discursive representation of Islam by United States legislators. Theoretically, the article draws upon the Copenhagen School in International Relations to assess the securitization of Islam within legislative debates and to develop the related concept of normalization.

(2016) Civilian Casualty Inequity, Partisanship, and American Public Support for Israel, Global Change Peace & Security

Research into how civilian casualties influence public opinion largely focuses on citizens’ support for the use of force by their own countries. This study explores how civilian casualties and partisan cues shape support for the use of force by an ally in a foreign conflict. Specifically, it assesses the effects of civilian casualty inequity – the uneven distribution of civilian casualties across two sides in a conflict – on Americans’ support for Israel. Drawing on an original survey experiment conducted during the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, the article bridges work on inequity aversion theory, party identification, and social identity theory. It finds that civilian casualty inequity information reduces support for Israel, particularly among Independents. The study also finds that adding explicit partisan criticism cues to civilian casualty inequity information does not appear to induce motivated evaluations of Israel among Republicans or Democrats. An important implication is that under conditions of greater media coverage of civilian casualty inequity, Americans – particularly Independents – might become less supportive of Israel even in the absence of elite criticism of Israel.

(2015) R2P, Global Governance, and the Syrian Refugee Crisis, International Journal of Human Rights

This article bridges Responsibility to Protect (R2P) with work on Global Governance (GG). Both are products of a normative shift away from state-centric conceptualizations of authority and towards collective efforts to address transnational problems where traditional (State) governance mechanisms are absent or have failed. By assessing the governance architecture of R2P and of refugee protection in the case of Syria, the article sheds light on how global structures of authority interact with national and local systems. The constraints on agents operating at multiple levels of authority and the inequalities inherent in these structures have important implications for the effectiveness of R2P outcomes. Given the power asymmetries associated with the governance architecture of R2P and the proxy war in Syria, the article argues that the use of coercive intervention under R2P’s Pillar Three risks further de-legitimization of the concept itself. As an alternative, the article calls for greater emphasis on R2P as refugee protection, particularly in light of the largest refugee crisis in the post-World War II era. The international community can take immediate and important steps towards fulfilling R2P by responding to the millions displaced by mass atrocity crimes.

Book Chapters:

(2012) Global Governance, Islamism, and Authority in the Middle East, Routledge

International Relations (IR) is increasingly concerned with how transnational forces, originating and operating outside the traditional domain of the state, wield influence on states’ policy decisions and outcomes. While IR scholars have begun to uncover the myriad challenges to state authority in the Middle East, derived from transnational religious movements, diasporas, and phenomena associated with the “new Arab media,” little work has related such transnational challenges to the study of Global Governance. Bearing in mind Craig Murphy’s observation that Global Governance has been “poorly done and poorly understood,” this chapter examines three manifestations of Islamist transnationalism in the Middle East to consider the empirical and theoretical implications for Global Governance: (1) the Muslim Brotherhood; (2) Hamas; and (3) Hizbullah. Empirically, these case studies present several trends regarding societal expectations of, and organizational competition over, governance in the Middle East. Theoretically, the chapter addresses the debate regarding what constitutes “Global Governance” and explores the tension between national and transnational elements of Islamist authority in the Middle East.


(2017) Depictions of Islam in U.S. Political Discourse, Religion in Public

Depictions of Islam and Muslim identity in the United States have gained renewed attention with President Trump’s January 2017 executive order temporarily barring immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries and indefinitely suspending the entry of all Syrian refugees. Legal scholars, advocacy groups, and the federal courts have been debating the constitutionality of the executive order. One concern is that it may be in tension with the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause by favoring the entry of Christian refugees over Muslim refugees and by targeting countries with Muslim populations in an attempt to partially implement earlier campaign promises regarding a ban on Muslims entering the United States. Concerns about executive actions on immigration that discriminate against Muslims, the potential creation of a Muslim registry, rhetoric among lawmakers supporting the internment of Muslims, and a recent effort to revise U.S. counter-extremism to focus exclusively on Islamic extremism underscore the importance of understanding how Islam and Muslims are constructed in U.S. political discourse.

(2016) The Responsibility to Protect and the Refugee Crisis, Sustainable Security

The world is witnessing unprecedented forced displacement due to conflict, persecution, and human rights violations. The conflict in Syria has been a major source of this displacement, producing over 7.6 million internally displaced persons and over 4.8 million refugees. The escalation of armed conflict in Iraq since 2014 has also contributed to a dire humanitarian and displacement crisis, and recent data indicate that Iraq is one of the three main origin countries—along with Syria and Afghanistan—for asylum seekers and migrants arriving in Europe. The conflicts in Syria and Iraq have been characterized by mass atrocity crimes including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possible acts of genocide. As the death tolls and casualties associated with attempts to flee these conflicts continue to rise, the failure of the international community to adequately protect civilian populations targeted by violence underscores concerns regarding the international norm of Responsibility to Protect (R2P). Over ten years after its acceptance by all member states at the United Nations World Summit, the framework for collectively responding to mass atrocities when states have manifestly failed to protect their populations remains weakened by critiques of selective use and by its conflation with coercive humanitarian intervention in the aftermath of its application in Libya. R2P’s association with controversial coercive measures threatens to undermine its legitimacy and overlooks important non-coercive opportunities for implementing the human protection principles that are at its core. In particular, in the wake of mass atrocity situations, facilitating access to asylum and other forms of protection for refugees and displaced persons represents an essential step towards fulfilling R2P.

Media Appearances:

Radio Appearances:

(2020) BBC

Displacement and the Syrian Conflict

(2019) WPR

Gov. Tony Evers Reaffirms Wisconsin's Stance on Welcoming Refugees

(2019) BBC

BBC Radio 5 Live's Up All Night on International Response to the Syrian Conflict

(2019) WPR

President Trump Announces Mass Deportation as Re-Election Campaign Kicks Off

(2019) Wisconsin Public Radio

Trump Administration Moves to Terminate Long Held Legal Agreement Limiting How Long Undocumented Children Can Be Detained

(2019) Wisconsin Public Radio

White House Considered Sending Asylum Seekers to Sanctuary Cities

(2019) Wisconsin Public Radio

President Trump's New Immigration Proposal to Prioritize 'Merit-Based' System

(2019) KJZZ (NPR)

Tucson Voters Will Soon Decide Whether to Declare 'Sanctuary City'

(2018) Wisconsin Public Radio

Trump Administration Says It Will Separate Families Crossing Into U.S. Illegally

(2018) Wisconsin Public Radio

Trump Expresses Desire to End Due Process for Undocumented Immigrants

(2018) Wisconsin Public Radio

Immigration in America: U.S. Attitudes towards Refugees

(2018) Wisconsin Public Radio

Pres. Trump and Advisers Weigh U.S. Response Following Suspected Chemical Attack in Syria

(2018) Wisconsin Public Radio

The Role of 'Chain Migration' in the Immigration Debate

(2018) Wisconsin Public Radio

Trump Administration Admitting Fewer Refugees in the Coming Year

(2018) Wisconsin Public Radio

Why a Group of Honduran Migrants is Seeking Asylum in the U.S.

(2018) Wisconsin Public Radio

The Future of Trump's Asylum Ban

(2015) Wisconsin Public Radio

"Perspectives on Syrian Refugee Crisis"

Newspaper Quotes:

(2018) Al Jazeera

Zanzibar's Tiny Syrian Refugee Community Seeks Slice of Paradise

(2017) CBS San Francisco

"Syrian Opposition Leader Hopes U.S. Strike 'Beginning of the End' of Civil War"

(2016) Pacific Standard

"What We Talk about When We Talk about ‘Normalizing’ Donald Trump: A Political Science Professor Weighs In"

Blog Posts:

(2019) The Globe Post

Changes in US Immigration Conversation Signal Departure from Responsibility Sharing

(2019) CAHSS & Effect

What Do You Mean By "Immigrants?"

(2018) The Globe Post

U.S. Involvement in Syria Warrants Responsibility to Syrians Fleeing Violence

(2018) The Globe Post

Trump's Zero Tolerance Could Undermine International Rule of Law

(2018) The Globe Post

Where Due Process Is Missing, Migrant Children Go Missing Too