Harrison Akins, from Maryville, TN, is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, focusing on International Relations, Comparative Politics, and Public Policy. He also serves as a Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Tennessee’s Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy. He earned a BA in History and Music Performance from American University in Washington, DC, an MA in Liberal Arts (the Great Books Program) from St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD, and an MSc in Political Theory from the London School of Economics. After graduating from American University, he spent a year teaching English in Wakkanai, Japan, the northernmost city in Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, as part of the Japan Exchange & Teaching (JET) Programme.
Prior to coming to UT, Akins was an Ibn Khaldun Chair Research Fellow at American University’s School of International Service, working with the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies and former Pakistani High Commissioner to the UK and Ireland, Ambassador Akbar Ahmed. While at American University, he served as a researcher for two of Ambassador Ahmed’s major research projects: The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam (Brookings Press, 2013) and Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Identity (Brookings Press, 2018). The Journey into Europe project involved fieldwork in 10 countries across the European continent over a period of two years, with Akins serving as a researcher and the fieldwork coordinator. The project resulted in both a book and a documentary film, for which he served as associate producer and director of cinematography.
His on-going research interests include intra-state conflict, terrorism, minority discrimination, Islamic culture and politics, South Asian politics, and US foreign policy. At UT, his doctoral dissertation, titled “The Terrorism Trap: The Hidden Impact of America’s War on Terror”, focuses on how U.S. foreign policy affects the domestic security policy of U.S. allies, using a mixed methods approach. More specifically, it examines how U.S. counterterrorism policy as part of the War on Terror influenced states to pursue offensive counterterrorism operations, resulting in an increase in domestic terrorism in allied states as a response to military operations. He works under the supervision of Professor Krista Wiegand. He is also a two-time recipient of the State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship to study Urdu in Lucknow, India. A frequent contributor to the media, his writings have appeared in the Atlantic, Foreign Policy, BBC, Al Jazeera, Huffington Post, India Times, the Guardian, and the Tennessean, among other outlets.