Letter to the Editor: Tributes to Professor Will H. Moore

Prof. Moore's colleagues reflect on his memory

From Christian Davenport Ph.D, University of Michigan 

Prof. Will H. Moore (or simply Will to those who interacted with him) was a complex human being and there are many things that are unknown about him. Two things are known though and they exist at the very core of his being and thus ours as we think about/remember him.

First, Will was a deep and constant thinker in the best possible way. Will dove into a topic like a deep sea diver — Jacques Cousteau style. He went in with everything he had, ready to explore the depths of a subject, wherever it would take him. His immersion into internal conflict led him to theorize and re-theorize, create new data and new methodologies to explore those data — all leading to new and/or more accurate understandings of diverse topics.

For example, topically, Will initially focused on government and challenging or dissident leaders, trying to ascertain when they would implement specific coercive tactics. Viewing this as too narrow, he later shifted to explore a wider variety of activities. 

Later, he considered specifically how presidents used their coercive powers, which merits reconsideration in the current American context. And, much later, he broadened his focus even wider to consider all government agents (i.e., the military, the police, prison officials, immigration authorities, etc.). Will even shifted focus from just looking at the causes of political violence to considering one of its biggest after-effects: refugees and internally displaced people. His mind was always searching for the deeper understanding, the better method of investigation.

This led to other developments as well. For example, Will initially viewed government-challenger interactions from the high perch of the nation as the primary unit of analysis. Later, he believed that we needed to get closer to the ground by exploring dyads (i.e., the relationship between specific government agents/acts and specific challengers/challenges). 

Will even shifted his conception of time going from an evaluation of years to weeks to what he classified as “turns,” acknowledging that governments and challengers engage in numerous activities over time before the other side does anything.

Second, Will approached his engagement with other humans in the same way that he approached his research — he dove in, completely. Will would push, probe, pull, shock, sooth, set afire and inspire students (especially students), colleagues and friends (combined categories in his mind) — often in the same conversation. 

He was a master at seeing what you actually intended and helping you find that kernel/seedling. He could unearth a good idea amidst a sky filled with clouds. Not only could he help you find it but he could help show you why it was important that you did.

He was brilliant at revealing what lay hidden within your mind by shaking you out of complacency. Whether it be saying something unexpected, wearing something unexpected or doing something unexpected, he made you aware and want to stay in that space/time.

These abilities and interests is what drew Will to ASU. Upon reading about the university, he sent me material and said "this is everything we talked about doing."  By that he meant that there was an interest in education (in the deepest sense of the word), raising awareness, addressing social injustice, helping first generation students, helping the underserviced people of color and thinking outside-the-box of normal within disciplinary formulas. 

Indeed, he felt free at ASU with its innovativeness and interdisciplinarity. In many ways, ASU was Will’s shining achievement. There, he had the opportunity to engage in exactly what he wanted and sharing this with a constituency that he believed was the most deserving. For that I am sure that he was thankful and for this I wish to thank you all for fulfilling my dear friend's dream of finally finding an institutional home. 

From David Davis III Ph.D, Emory University

If I were to choose one word to describe Will Moore, it would be dedicated. Will was dedicated to his students, the discipline, human rights and his friends. He was one of the least selfish people in our community of scholars.

Will was dedicated to teaching, especially to teaching his graduate students. He worked tirelessly to train his students to be the best researchers they could be. As many of the tributes to Will point out, it was not easy to be one of Will’s students. He was demanding and had very high expectations, but his willingness to devote time to his students was limitless. Will coauthored with many of them and he had a huge influence on all of them. The large number of very successful students whose work has had a major influence on the discipline is a legacy of his dedication to his students.

Will was dedicated to the community of researchers working on political violence and human rights. He worked very hard to expand and strengthen ties among researchers. He was especially interested in helping mentor the careers of graduate students and junior faculty members. He and Christian Davenport created the online Conflict Consortium, which served as a platform for encouraging collaboration, and allowed scholars to present their work to a broad audience and to receive feedback from more senior scholars. 

They also worked to guarantee that the knowledge and experiences of the pioneering scholars in the field of conflict studies were preserved and made accessible through the MINDfields program. Will was never content with just conducting his own research; he wanted to build a dynamic community of scholars working together and he dedicated a great deal of time making that community a reality.

Will was dedicated to improving the visibility and influence of academic research on policy makers and the public more generally. He founded, along with Erica Chenoweth and Barbara Walter, the blog "Political Violence at a Glance" which seeks to educate people about political violence around the world. In particular, PV@G highlights cutting edge academic research and the implications of their findings for pressing policy issues and problems, making the work of scholars accessible to policy makers and people around the world.

Will was dedicated to advancing human rights and ending oppression. He deeply believed that social science research could be a valuable tool for understanding why wrongs occurred in this world. His own research, such as his work collecting data to explain patterns of torture, would help scholars understand why states engage in such actions. Without understanding why abuses are committed, we won’t be able to stop them. He also believed in highlighting injustice, especially gender-based discrimination, wherever it occurred to encourage scholars and students to study abuse and work to prevent it.

Will was a dedicated friend. In the 30 years I knew him, he was always there when you needed him. He was there to give you advice. He was there to give you sympathy. He was there to listen.

Without Will’s help and support, I never would have made it out of graduate school much less had a successful career. Our last adventure was a road trip in August across the South from Atlanta to Phoenix in an air conditioned-less car. It was brutally hot but such a joy to spend a week in conversation with a creative, caring and dedicated person. 

Reach Joshua Blinkoff at Joshua.Blinkoff@asu.edu.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this letter to the editor are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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