My name is Lauren C. Konken and I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Politics at Princeton University, focusing on International Relations. In particular, I study how states use ambiguous treaty language to conclude negotiations towards international trade agreements.
My book-length dissertation project evaluates the causes of "constructive ambiguity" – the deliberate use of ambiguous language to address a sensitive issue in a negotiation – in the design of international law, as well as its many consequences for long-term compliance. In it, I offer a theory of how an unwillingness to accept negotiation failure, and the certainty of future meetings, can lead negotiators to craft ambiguous law to facilitate agreement in the present. I further show that while constructive ambiguity may be viewed as a form of treaty flexibility during negotiations, states subsequently refrain from relying on such provisions to defend noncompliance as doing so would remove the very flexibility initially desired. I evaluate this theory primarily in the context of trade negotiations towards the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and World Trade Organization (WTO), and with additional theory-building cases including negotiations towards the 1972 Shanghai Communiqué.
For the 2021-2022 academic year, I will be a fellow with the Dean's Prize in the Social Sciences Fellowship at Princeton University (formerly known as the Fellowship of Woodrow Wilson Scholars).
My research has been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada, the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance, and the Princeton-University of Geneva EUROCOMPLEX Partnership. I have presented my work at several major academic conferences including the American Political Science Association (APSA), the International Studies Association (ISA), the Political Economy of International Organizations (PEIO), The Midwestern Political Science Association (MPSA), the Pacific International Politics Conference (PIPC) online conference series, and the Virtual International Political Economy Society (VIPES).
Before pursuing my Ph.D. I received a Bachelor's Degree (BA) in Joint Honours Political Science and History, with distinction, from McGill University in 2014, followed by a Master of Arts (MA) in Political Science from McGill University in 2016, concentrating on international relations. I also have an intermediate-level knowledge of French.
Alongside my academic work, I am passionate about teaching and issues of access, diversity, and inclusion, especially for first-generation, low-income (FLI) students. Growing up in a working-class community outside of Vancouver, BC, I didn't understand the benefits of, or aspire to, a college education until my family moved to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) when I was 13. A trio of high school teachers encouraged me to apply to university, wherein I was lucky to find a number of friends and mentors who ushered me through the hidden curriculum.
Outside of academic life, I am a novice rower with the Carnegie Lake Rowing Association (CLRA), a hobby photographer, and an amateur baker. Walking my dog Luna, a Great Pyrenees/Bernese Mountain Dog mix, is one of the highlights of my day every morning.
You can contact me at lkonken[@]princeton.edu or via the contact page of this website.