Safia Swimelar

Associate Professor of Political Science and Policy Studies
Gray Pavilion - Pol. Science 210C
2333 Campus Box
Elon, NC 27244 (336) 278-6630

Brief Biography


I joined the Elon faculty in 2008 after teaching several years at the University of the South-Sewanee and completing my Ph.D. in political science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (2003).  My main areas of both research and teaching are: international relations, comparative politics, international human rights, international law, European politics, post-communist politics (specifically the Balkans, e.g. Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia), nationalism and identity politics, democratization, and LGBT rights and politics.  One of the main avenues of my research has been to examine the process of norm change in Europe and how new ideas and principles diffuse to the domestic sphere.  I had an opportunity to examine these issues as a Fulbright Scholar in Sarajevo, Bosnia in 2006-07.  I recently published an article examining post-war Bosnia’s challenges to promote human rights and tolerance within a segregated and nationalistic education system. 

Currently, I am working on a project on LGBT rights and politics in the Balkans.  Also, I am very interested, both professionally and personally, in how we understand and respond to human rights issues and violence  through film and photography.  I therefore watch a lot of films, narrative and documentary, mostly independent, international, and art house.  I am the associate coordinator of the International Studies Program:  I am a member of the Peace and Conflict Studies minor program as well.  




University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Ph.D., 1998-2003, Political Science

            Major fields: International Relations, Comparative Politics

Dissertation: The Making of Minority Rights: International Norms, Transnational Actors, and National Identity in Romania and the Czech Republic       

Adviser: Dr. David P. Forsythe

University of Texas-Austin, 1991-1998, B.A. and M.A., Government

Master's Thesis on the Roma (Gypsies) of Eastern Europe



Employment History


Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies, Elon University, 2013-present

Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Studies, Elon University, 2008-2013

Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, 2003-2008

Fulbright Scholar, University of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, 2006-07

Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1998-2003

Courses Taught


International Relations (POL 141)

Comparative Politics (POL 161)

International Law (POL 343)

Human Rights (POL 348)

Foundations of Peace and Conflict Studies (PCS 350)

International Studies Senior Seminar (INT 461)

Multicultural London (winter term)


Leadership Positions


Associate Coordinator for International Studies, Interdisciplinary Major/Minor, June 2013-present

Faculty Adviser for Elon student organization, The Politics Forum, February 2012-present

Member of the Global Neighborhood Association, 2013-present




International Relations and Comparative Politics: human rights, international norms/law, international relations theory-constructivism, international institutions, transnational advocacy networks, democratization, nationalism, identity politics, migration/immigration, integration

Regional Focus: Europe (west/east) and the Balkans; European Union

Current Projects

Currently, I am working with an Elon Lumen Scholar on understanding the variation and norm socialization process in East European states’ policies and attitudes toward LGBT rights as they become new members of the European Union.  

I am engaged in scholarship on the visualization of human rights, specifically how we understand images of suffering and violence and their political significance.  Related to this is my project on “The Political, Symbolic, and Strategic Uses of Media Images of Political Violence in Contemporary Narratives of American Foreign Policy" funded by The Turnage Family Faculty Innovation and Creativity Fund for the Study of Political Communication.  

Grants Awarded


Research Grant from The Turnage Family Faculty Innovation and Creativity Fund for the Study of Political Communication, 2012

Summer Research Fellowship, Elon University, Summer 2011, 2013.

Fund for Excellence Grant on “Visualizing Human Rights,” Elon University, Spring 2010

Fulbright Scholar, University of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, 2006-07



“Visualizing Human Rights through Film and Photography,” in Mark Gibney and Anja Mihr (eds), Sage Handbook of Human Rights (forthcoming 2014).

“Guilty without a Verdict: Effects of the Miloševic Trial on Bosniaks and Bosnia,” In Timothy Waters (ed.) The Miloševic Trial: An Autopsy (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 2013.

“Visualizing International Relations: Assessing Student Learning Through Film,” International Studies Perspectives (summer 2012).

“Education in Post-war Bosnia: The Nexus of Societal Security, Identity and Nationalism,” Ethnopolitics, March 2012; DOI: 10.1080/17449057.2012.656839

“Human Rights through Film: an essay and review of selected films from the Human Rights Watch 2009 Film Festival,” Human Rights Quarterly, November 2010, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 1069-1078

Review Essay on film Standard Operating Procedure, dir. Errol Morris, Human Rights Quarterly, February 2010, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 240-248. 

“Visual Culture and Pedagogy: Teaching Human Rights with Film and Images,” Global-e: A Global Studies Journal, vol. 3, issue 10, October 2009.

“European Roma,” In Encyclopedia of Human Rights, ed. David P. Forsythe. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 2009.

“The Making of Minority Rights Norms in the Context of EU Enlargement: The Czech Republic and the Roma.” International Journal of Human Rights, vol. 12, no. 4 (Oct. 2008), pp. 505-527.

“Approaches to Ethnic Conflict and Human Rights Protection in Post-Communist Europe: the Need for Preventive Diplomacy.” Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, vol. 7, no. 3 (2001), pp. 98-126




Academic conferences

“Framing the Unwanted: The Case of the French Roma Expulsions as a Window onto European Union Principles and Human Rights Norms,” presented at the Annual Convention of the International Studies Association (ISA), San Diego, California, April 1-4, 2012.

 “Representation, Ideology, and Identity in Documentary Film on Eastern Europe,” presented at Association for Study of Nationalities conference (ASN), Columbia University, New York, April 14-16, 2011.

“Visual Culture as a Pedagogical Tool Toward Human Rights and Global Citizenship” paper presented at the American Political Science Association (APSA) Meeting, Toronto, Canada, September 2-6, 2009.

“Education Reform, Human Rights and Security in Post-War Bosnia,” paper presented at the International Studies Association-South Meeting in Ashland, Virginia, October 2008.

 “Human Rights, Education, and Security in Post-War Bosnia: the Role of European Actors,” paper presented at the International Studies Association Convention, San Francisco, CA, March 2008.

“EU Enlargement and Minority Rights: Hegemony and Norm Socialization,” presented at the International Studies Association conference, Montreal, Canada, March 2004.

“Human Rights and the Roma in the Czech Republic,” presented at International Political Science Association, Ljubljana, Slovenia, August 1999.


Invited Talks, Panel Presentations, and Commentary

Guest on WUNC North Carolina Public Radio, Durham, “The State of Things,” with Frank Stasio on “Social Media and Social Change - Kony 2012 video,” March 29, 2012.

Presenter on 9/11 Panel as part of Ashby Dialogue, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, September 7, 2011.

Presenter on Elon Panel on the death of Bin Laden, May 2011.

“Teaching Human Rights Through Film” lectures at Summer Human Rights Institute, Duke University, Durham, NC, July 2009 and July 2010.

Presenter on Elon Panel on conflict in Afghanistan sponsored by Non-Violence Studies, April 2009.


Service Activities

Faculty Adviser for Elon student organization, The Politics Forum, February 2012-present

Coordinator of Peace and Conflict Studies minor, 2011-14

Member of Elon's Global Neighborhood Committee, Fall 2013-present

Mentor for undergraduate research and Lumen scholars

Member of International Fellows Advisory Committee, Fall 2010-present

Member of Elon Visual Culture Group, Fall 2008-present

Member of Elon Curriculum Committee, Spring 2010





Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (proficient)

Czech (proficient)

French (proficient)

Spanish (conversational)