Office Hours with Drew University’s Carlos Yordan

U.N. speeches reveal shifts in opinions on terrorism, women empowerment

July 2021 – This summer, we’re spending time in office hours with some of Drew University’s amazing faculty to learn about what interests and inspires them and their research.

Today, we’re talking with Carlos Yordan, Associate Professor of International Relations and Director of the New York City Semester on the United Nations.

What about your field are you currently most interested in?

I’m looking into two questions while analyzing speeches given by world leaders at the U.N. General Debate over the last several decades. One question is how opinions of terrorism have shifted in the U.N. from 1970 to 2020. The other is identifying when the empowerment of women became one of the U.N.’s top goals, and whether the increasing number of women leaders participating in the General Debate could explain this development.

How do you go about answering these questions?

I am analyzing the U.N.’s collection of speeches and treating the text as data. Using different text-mining methodologies, I extract important features in these texts to understand political actors’ intentions, interests, and policy interests. While I’m currently studying speeches delivered at the U.N., these techniques can be applied to any type of text, from social media posts to Supreme Court decisions.

How do you incorporate Drew students into this work?

Using a Digital Humanities Summer Institute grant from Drew’s Digital Humanities program, I’ve been working with Sara Curley C’23 and Casey Raleigh C’22 on a project analyzing the General Debate speeches. I taught students how to use different text-mining methodologies to explore these speeches, and Sara and Casey are now looking into subjects of their own interests. Sara focused on North Korea’s foreign policy and the world’s reaction to its nuclear weapons program, and Casey compared Russian and Soviet speeches. I’ll be taking the lessons Sara and Casey learned and teaching them to students in the Semester on the U.N. this fall.

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