Political science professor awarded national endowment for the humanities fellowship to study "fake news"

Professor Kelly Greenhill, Ph.D., will use Fellowship to advance her research into the influence of rumors, conspiracy theories, myths, propaganda, and entertainment media on individuals and governments.
December 14, 2016

For More Information or to Request a Photo from this News Release, Contact:

Kalimah Redd Knight

MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE (Dec. 14, 2016) – Kelly M. Greenhill, Ph.D., a political science professor in the School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University, has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Fellowship to further her research on how rumors, conspiracy theories, myths, propaganda, and entertainment media influence the beliefs and decision-making of individuals and governments. The NEH, which announced the fellowship today, is one of the largest independent funders of humanities programs in the United States.

Greenhill’s research will focus on the often significant impact of what she calls “extra-factual information” on the how individuals and governments perceive and respond to security-related threats.

“There’s never been a more crucial time to explore the effects of 'fake news' and fact-bending on decision-making at all levels of our society,” said Deborah Schildkraut, chair of the Political Science Department at Tufts. “Professor Greenhill’s research will help us understand a fascinating topic that impacts so many.”

Greenhill’s forthcoming book, “Whispers of War, Mongers of Fear: Extra-factual Sources of Threat Conception and Proliferation,” explores how individuals learn what to fear and how to respond to the threats they have identified, particularly during periods of significant ambiguity and heightened danger. Such episodes include the aftermath of terrorist attacks, and during wars, economic crises, and other periods of domestic or international unrest. The book examines the influence of extra-factual information from the late 19th century through today, and includes cases from the United States, Russia, Germany, and the United Kingdom.Professor Kelly M. Greenhill, Ph.D.

Her research illustrates how extra-factual information sources often have had exercised profound influence on national security decision-making at the highest levels of government.

“I’m enormously honored to have received this prestigious fellowship as well as the inestimably valuable endorsement and support of the NEH in order to advance my research,” said Greenhill. “While I have been working on this book for quite some time, the discussion of the impact of 'fake news' in the recent presidential election makes this topic even more timely and the consequences of ignoring this critical policy issue all the more apparent.”

Greenhill specializes in the study of military force and what are frequently called “new security challenges,” including civil wars, insurgencies and military intervention; the use of forced migration as a weapon; US foreign policy, and international crime as a challenge to domestic governance. 

She is the author of several books, including the award-winning “Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced Displacement, Coercion and Foreign Policy,” and co-author and co-editor of “Sex Drugs and Body Counts: The Politics of Numbers in Global Crime and Conflict” and “The Use of Force: Military Power and International Politics.”

In addition to her role at Tufts, Greenhill serves as Research Fellow and Chair of the Conflict, Security and Public Policy Working Group at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and as Associate Editor of the journal “International Security."

The NEH today announced funding for 290 projects in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico for a variety of humanities-based research and programs. The $16.3 million total grants awarded includes 86 Fellowship grants totaling more than $4 million in support of university faculty and independent scholars pursuing advanced research.

The NEH is an independent federal agency created in 1965. It supports research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities by funding top-rated competitive, peer-reviewed proposals examined by panels of independent, external reviewers. At an annual cost of about 50 cents per capita, NEH brings high-quality historical and cultural experiences to large and diverse audiences in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five territories.

About Tufts University

Tufts University, located on campuses in Boston, Medford/Somerville and Grafton, Massachusetts, and in Talloires, France, is recognized among the premier research universities in the United States. Tufts enjoys a global reputation for academic excellence and for the preparation of students as leaders in a wide range of professions. A growing number of innovative teaching and research initiatives span all Tufts campuses, and collaboration among the faculty and students in the undergraduate, graduate and professional programs across the university's schools is widely encouraged.