Published Articles

Expressive Voting in Autocracies: A Theory of Non-Economic Participation with Evidence from Cameroon.” 2020.
Perspectives on Politics, 18 (2), 439-453.

The Mechanisms of Direct and Indirect Rule: Colonialism and Economic Development in Africa” (with Martha Wilfahrt). 2020.
Quarterly Journal of Political Science, 15 (4), 539-577.

The Political Geography of Electoral Autocracies: The Influence of Party Strongholds on Political Beliefs in Africa.” 2019.
Electoral Studies, Volume 60.

Popular Support for Democracy in Autocratic Regimes: A Micro-Level Analysis of Preferences” (with Martha Wilfahrt). 2018.
Comparative Politics, 50 (2), 231-250.


“‘The People’s Choice’: Popular (Il)Legitimacy in Autocratic Cameroon.” 2017. Journal of Modern African Studies, 55 (4), 647-679.


Voting for Peace, Mobilizing for War: Post-Conflict Voter Turnout and Civil War Recurrence.” 2017. Democratization, 24 (3), p. 425-443.

Book Manuscript in Progress

The Autocratic Citizen: Partisanship and Political Socialization under Dictatorship

Citizens living in autocratic regimes such as Cameroon face considerably more constrained choices when it comes to participating in political life than citizens of democracies. Given the danger of supporting the opposition and the unlikelihood of its success, why would an ordinary citizen ever choose to join the opposition? Inversely, given that democracy is a near-universal value and autocratic regimes face harsh criticisms about corruption and repression, why would a citizen choose to support the ruling party? In other words, under what conditions do citizens of authoritarian regimes participate in politics, and why do some become active in the opposition, while others actively support the regime?

The book project seeks to challenge traditional assumptions of political science in order to better understand the different ways in which Cameroonian citizens form their preferences for the regime in power, why they sometimes act on these preferences (either in support or defection), and the effect this collective behavior may have on the regime in power. More precisely, I argue that instead of focusing primarily on regime tactics such as patronage and repression, we must instead understand the social networks in which people are embedded, as well as processes of life-long political socialization in order to best understand why some people support the regime in power while others support the opposition. 

Working Papers

Social Networks and Partisanship in Electoral Autocracies
In electoral autocracies, why do some people actively support political parties while others choose to not get in involved in politics? Further, what differentiates those who choose to support the ruling party from those who support the opposition? Existing research has proposed that people support ruling parties primarily to extract economic benefits from the state while people support opposition parties for ideological reasons stemming from higher levels of education and socioeconomic status. However, we lack a unified theory of partisanship more broadly, leading to indeterminant predictions about the individual predictors of partisanship. In order to fully explain partisanship under autocracy, we must better understand the roles that social networks play in producing political support for parties. This paper argues that partisan homophily-the extent to which one’s social network is populated by nonpartisans, ruling party partisans, or opposition partisans—is critical to explaining partisanship. Using data from multiple original surveys from Cameroon that measure partisan networks in different ways, the paper shows not only that these networks are important, but also, at least to some extent, that partisanship can be contagious through the process of political socialization.

Judge, Landlord, Broker, Watchman: Assessing Variation in Chiefly Duties in the Ghana-Togo Borderlands
(with Martha Wilfahrt)
In the past twenty years, political scientists have found a renewed interest in the role of traditional authorities in sub-Saharan Africa. In large part, this interest has been driven by the proliferation of public opinion data that consistently shows that chiefs are extremely popular amongst ordinary citizens. An overview of this literature reveals three assumptions about traditional authority that this paper seeks to interrogate: that chiefs generally perform the same jobs, that they have substantial authority in their communities, and that they derive this authority from similar sources. Using data from an original public opinion survey fielded in fifty rural villages along the Ghana-Togo border, we provide evidence to challenge these assumptions. Overall, we find surprising variation across villages. Further, explore one potential cleavage driving this variation: colonial legacy. We find that chiefs in Ghana (a former British colony ruled indirectly) in comparison to chiefs in Togo (a former French colony ruled directly) have more jobs, are perceived to be more effective at them, possess more legitimacy in the eyes of their subjects, and hold more upward power over local state officials.

Autocratic Legalism, Partisanship, and Popular Legitimation in Authoritarian Cameroon
(with Yonatan Morse)
Authoritarian regimes regularly turn to the law to justify repression. This paper examines how the response to ‘autocratic legalism’ is mitigated by partisanship. We argue that autocratic legalism is more likely to influence regime partisans and nonpartisans. However, the effects among nonpartisans differ based on whether they are closeted opposition supporters rather than apolitical. The paper uses a survey experiment conducted in authoritarian Cameroon. Respondents were presented with two scenarios that varied the intensity of repressive behavior. Treatment groups were primed with reference to an existing legal mechanism. The results partially sustain our conjectures. Autocratic legalism does not clearly help justify overt repression. However, legalism does increase regime partisan support for milder repression and reduces nonpartisan support. Closer examination of nonpartisans demonstrates differences based on underlying measures of political engagement. The paper clarifies when autocratic legalism can elicit support and elaborates on the role of nonpartisans in authoritarian settings.

Colonial Legacies, Collective Efficacy, and Rural Development: Evidence from the Togo-Ghana Border
(with Martha Wilfahrt)

Collective efficacy-- the shared expectation that a group or community can coordinate their action in pursuit of a desired outcome—is a critical concept for understanding development in rural West Africa, where villagers themselves often shoulder the brunt of local development initiatives. Understanding when and why some communities are able to resolve local challenges, be it repairing a school roof or raising money to fix a community well, is an area of both academic and practical interest. This paper argues that modes of colonial control have had a lasting legacy on local-level collective efficacy in the villages of rural West Africa. Specifically, it contends that French legacies of centralized, hierarchical direct rule undermined local perceptions of collective efficacy by reorienting political action towards the state. Using original survey data in fifty paired villages along the Ghana-Togo border, we show that collective efficacy is systematically higher in Ghanaian villages today, and that this relationship is robust to a number of different confounding factors. We show further that perceptions of collective efficacy have subsequently led to higher levels of collective action when it comes to fixing problems within the community.

Echoes of the ‘Hidden War:’ Collective Memories of UPC Violence
(with Joseph Lasky)
How durable are the effects of political violence on group identity construction processes and political attitudes? Is the influence of past conflict on identities and political attitudes similar in direction and intensity across generations? We turn to evidence from Cameroon to inform our understanding of the intergenerational transmission of political violence. Cameroon experienced a period of political violence during the late-1950s and 1960s, first under the French colonial administration and subsequently under the Ahidjo regime. Also known as the Hidden War, violence was directed at upécistes, members of the Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC) political party. Leveraging cross-sectional data, we find evidence of a link between experiences during conflict and perceptions of group consciousness: individuals who lost a sibling during the Hidden War exhibit a higher sense of group consciousness relative to those whose families suffered no casualties. Those who lost a parent or grand-parent similarly exhibit an augmented sense of group consciousness, but the effect weakens. These results indicate that the influence of violence on attitudes across generations is substantial but diminishing.