Conflict of Interest

Juliane “Jule” Krueger

Berlin, Germany

J-1 Research Scholarju_kru

Research Associate – Social Science Data Analytics

Department of Political Science

Jule is intrigued by conflict. No, she’s not a troublemaker or instigator. Instead, being a political scientist, conflict is her main research topic. Jule is interested in understanding the dynamics towards both internal war and international conflict. She states, “I’m at the cross between comparative and world politics. I study political violence which is anything related to state repression, armed conflict, or human rights abuses. So when there is political activity that results in people being hurt and when the goal is to understand why there’s violence and why people get harmed, I am interested.”

When was your first time in the U.S.?

I came here for the first time in 2008 as a J-1 scholar to participate in a summer program called Humanity in Action. I was part of a summer school on human rights and minority issues in New York followed by an internship program with the Prison University Project at San Quentin State Prison in California. During the internship, I met another human rights organization called the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG). We agreed that I would come back as a fellow to learn HRDAG’s principled approach to scientific human rights data analysis. That fellowship then actually became my second U.S. visit as a J-1 scholar.

How did you get interested in this field?

Being German, I think it’s two things for me. In high school, we have a very strong focus on the Holocaust, the Third Reich and German politics in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. In history classes, we look at German nationalism for years to study what happened and how the political system collapsed, what was being done, as well as who may have resisted how to the changes. There was an interest in political violence that way, but it also originates from me being born in East Germany and becoming a child of a peaceful revolution. The Fall of the Iron Curtain and the German reunification provided me with civil liberties and freedoms my parents were unable to enjoy when they were my age. I think these are the main experiences that created my sensitivity for human rights issues and injustices around the globe. Considerable conflict and violence remain in our world today and I became more and more drawn to the most severe human rights violations, such as disappearances, killings, and torture.

What have you learned about yourself thus far as a J-1 scholar?

Your heritage really matters and somehow sticks with you on so many levels. Even though my German accent may be disappearing to some degree, or perhaps I feel more comfortable talking in English, or I have become more used to American culture; I grew up in a different culture and a different context. There are still things that are different and that I can’t shake. Every time I go home I see the difference. Now it’s really apparent. For example, Germans have a habit to be very much on time and to stick to agreed schedules. If you agree to meet at 8, everyone will be there. I have noticed on many occasions that such meeting times are less precise here in the U.S. as I am waiting for people to arrive or I myself simply do not arrive sharp anymore. When I am back home in Berlin though, I have to remind myself to closely stick to agreements or my German friends will call me out for being a flake soon enough.

What does cultural exchange mean to you?

In my view, cultural exchange allows us to learn and understand our differences and commonalities. I think a lot of conflict can be resolved when we talk to each other and look at our commonalities. I believe conflicts happen when there is not enough information on what is going on. So there is either an incentive to misrepresent or there is simply a lack of communication, and hence, a lack of trust and mutual understanding. You may have a conflict of two ethnic groups fighting each other and one group says: “You have all the water, you do this, dress like that, and you believe in this god of yours, and we don’t”. So there is a lot of focus on differences, which creates tension. But we could also look at the needs we have in common, such as: “We all want to be happy and healthy, live in peace. We all have children, and we all are worried our sons and daughters may not be able to go to school or grow up safe”. When we identify these common goals, maybe we can realize we are in this together and figure out a way to achieve these common goals for everyone.

I believe that if we engage in cultural exchange, when we meet one another, it allows us to learn about what we have in common across skin color, ages, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, and political ideology. If we are willing to learn, we can recognize what unites us, identify common goals, as well as learn our differences and how we may be able to accept them. Cultural exchange will show you these differences soon enough. It invites us to practice that it’s okay to be different. There is so much power and beauty in our differences because we benefit from this diversity. It makes us richer.