Melikian Faculty Affiliates

Victor Peskin
Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
Research Interests:
Intersection of international relations, comparative politics, and human rights

Current research: Victor Peskin is currently working on a book manuscript provisionally titled The New Victor's Justice: Winners, Losers, and the Hidden Crimes of the Kosovo and Rwandan Wars. Based in part on his research in the Balkans, Rwanda, and The Hague, the project addresses the changing legal, diplomatic, and media narratives of and responses to wartime and post-war crimes linked to Kosovo Liberation Army and Rwandan Patriotic Front suspects. The project probes the changing relationship between international law, state sovereignty, and great power politics by examining the conditions under which victorious pro-Western rebel armies like the KLA and RPF face sustained international diplomatic and media scrutiny as well as international criminal accountability. The book is motivated by the following puzzle: why has the European Union, with strong U.S. backing, established a new Hague-based tribunal to prosecute KLA suspects, after years of the West trying to shield its Kosovar Albanian allies and doing the same for the pro-Western Tutsi-led RPF regime? The book elaborates on "the new victor's justice," a concept Peskin has developed to characterize the impunity often granted to the winners even in an era marked by normative embrace of universal human rights. Central to the project is a Kosovo-Rwanda comparison to explain why the West created a new tribunal for alleged KLA crimes but has not supported UN prosecution of RPF suspects. Peskin’s research for this book project has received generous support from the Melikian Center.

Laura Popova
Honors Faculty Fellow
Ph.D., University of Chicago
Research Interests:
Eurasian archaeology

Current research:  Laura Popova’s research mostly focuses on the politics of land use in the Eurasian steppe, past and present, highlighting the ways in which the socio-political, ecological, and cultural orders of pastoral societies shape and restructure global and local environments. She is currently working on an article that examines the droughts of the late 1800s in the Eastern European steppe regions in Russia and how they were “naturalized” by scientists and government officials who were working to ameliorate the problem. In particular, she is focusing on reforesting efforts that were part of several proposed solutions in the Volga steppe region and how those projects impacted future environmental choices and how people envisioned the steppe. In addition to this, she is currently an area coordinator for Europe and Asia for LandUse 6k (, which is part of the LandCover 6K ( project. The goal of this project is to make a digital, integrative map of land cover change in the world that is linked to detailed archaeological and historical data. This map will provide policy makers and scientists a better understanding of exactly how humans have changed the world over time and how that links to climate change trends. This study is linked to her undergraduate student research project tracking how people currently imagine climate change in Arizona ( The goal is to eventually make this social media platform available worldwide for people to share their stories of what life will be like in 2050 based on climate projections.

Milos Popovic
Postdoctoral Fellow
PhD, Central European University
Research Interests:
Military intervention and proxy wars; cohesion and fragmentation of rebel groups; violence in civil conflicts; ethnic conflict in the Balkans, Central Asia and Kashmir
Daniel Pout
PhD, Arizona State University
Research Interests:
International relations theory
Nancy Roberts
Emeritus Professor
Ph.D., Arizona State University
Research Interests:
Microeconomic Theory, Public Finance

Current academic activity: Nancy Roberts, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Economics of the W. P. Carey School of Business, was a participant in the Fulbright Specialist program in the Faculty of Economics at the University of Prishtina in the summer of 2018. The Faculty of Economics has applied for program accreditation conforming to the national legal requirements of the European Qualifications Framework for Higher Education. They are currently undergoing the accreditation process conducted by the Kosovo Accreditation Agency.  The thrust of her work was to help reorganize the programs within the Faculty of Economics with the goal to identify and eliminate overlap, develop new curriculum, and advance the teaching and learning process at the University of Prishtina.  She also spent a significant amount of time with them on the importance and creation of the syllabus.  With Associate Dean Driton Balaj, she also co-taught a public finance course at the Pristhina International Summer University.

Photo: Claudia Sadowski-Smith
Claudia Sadowski-Smith
PhD, University of Delaware
Research Interests:
Late 20th and 21st century multi-ethnic U.S. literatures, immigration studies, border studies, post-Soviet and East European Studies

Current research: Claudia Sadowski-Smith published her second monograph The New Immigrant Whiteness: Race, Neoliberalism, and Post-Soviet Migration to the United  States in March 2018 with New York University Press. The book examines representations of post-1980s migration from the former Soviet Union and successor nations in reality TV shows, interviews, memoirs, and fiction. It highlights the internal ethnic and legal diversity of the diaspora and places it into larger discussions about the racialization of contemporary US immigrants. The New Immigrant Whiteness shows that their differential legal status on arrival––as participants in refugee, marriage, labor, and adoptive migration–– impacts post-Soviet immigrants’ encounters with socioeconomic inequalities and tightened immigration restrictions, as well as their attempts to construct transnational identities, even as this group is collectively associated with idealized accounts of the assimilation and upward mobility of early twentieth-century arrivals from Europe. The book examines how their perceived whiteness exposes post-Soviet family migrants to heightened expectations of assimilation, explores undocumented migration from the former Soviet Union, analyzes post-USSR immigrants’ attitudes toward anti-immigration laws that target Latina/os, and considers similarities between post-Soviet and Asian immigrants in their association with notions of upward immigrant mobility.

In addition, Sadowski-Smith is completing a co-edited special issue of Twentieth Century Literature, which theorizes cultural representations of US immigrant authors from the former USSR and Yugoslavia as well as Romania and Bulgaria as “postsocialist US literature.”

Peter Schmelz
Associate Professor
PhD, University of California, Berkeley
Research Interests:
Popular music and popular culture (in both the US and Eastern Europe), music and the Cold War, and music and politics more broadly, as well as music and film, and sound studies.

Current research: Peter J. Schmelz, associate professor of musicology at Arizona State University, is currently completing two book manuscripts: Alfred Schnittke: Concerto Grosso no. 1 (Oxford, forthcoming 2019) and Sonic Overload: Polystylism as Cultural Practice in the Late USSR, focused on the music of Alfred Schnittke and Valentin Silvestrov. He is also at work on two other books, the first called Intimate Histories of the Musical Cold War, detailing unofficial musical exchanges during the 1960s between the Ukraine SSR, Russian SSR, and West Germany. The second is Some Combinations of Freedoms and Passions: Soviet Experimental Music in the 1980s and explores the music of the Ganelin Trio, Sergey Kuryokhin and Pop Mekhanika, Valentina Ponomareva, and Auktsyon. Schmelz has conducted research in Kyiv with funding from the Melikian Center.

Read Professor Schmelz's blog entry.

Professor Schmelz's Russian Music course - Fall 2018.

John Duncan Shaeffer
Principal Lecturer and Undergraduate Advisor
Ph.D., Arizona State University
Research Interests:
Regional geography, including Russia and its surroundings; cultural and historical geography

Current academic and professional activity: J. Duncan Shaeffer, a principal instructor of geography, currently currently teaches the introductory World Geography course and numerous specialized regional geography courses, among others, the Geography of Russia and Surroundings and the Geography of Europe. The majority of his courses are taught in both the in-person and online formats. In the future, he will teach even more specialized regional geography courses. 

Bill Silcock
Associate Professor
PhD, University of Missouri
Research Interests:
Media ethics, leadership, journalism education, TV documentaries and social media
Iveta Silova
Professor and Director of the Center for the Advanced Studies in Global Education
PhD, Columbia University
Research Interests:
Globalization, Democratization, and Policy ‘Borrowing’ in Education

Current research: Iveta Silova is working on a project, which focuses on the memories of socialist childhood. The research project brings together cultural insiders who were brought up and educated on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain - spanning from Central Europe to mainland Asia - enabling participants to explore their own experiences of Soviet/socialist education and childhood by analyzing lived experiences, memories, and artifacts of socialist childhood and schooling. The goal is to make visible to ourselves as researchers how we have mastered (and been mastered by) particular theories and understandings of (post)socialist transition, education, and childhood. Our memories offer insights into the manifold nature of childhoods that cannot be simply reduced to an ideological oppression exercised through socialist state control or official school curriculum and pedagogy. Rather, these evocative memory stories illuminate the diverse spaces of childhoods interweaving with broader political, economic, and social life. They also highlight the multiple ways of becoming and being children in historical contexts that are far more ambiguous than previously acknowledged. Drawing on the research traditions of autobiography, autoethnography, and collective biography, we challenge what is often considered “normal” and “natural” in the historical accounts of socialist childhoods and engage in (re)writing histories that rub against traditional imaginaries of Cold War divisions between the East and West.