Research

Published Articles

Autocratic Legalism, Partisanship, and Popular Legitimation in Authoritarian Cameroon” (with Yonatan Morse). 2023. Public Opinion Quarterly, 87(4): p. 935-955. 

Judge, Landlord, Broker, Watchman: Assessing Variation in Chiefly Duties in the Ghana-Togo Borderlands” (with Martha Wilfahrt). 2023. Journal of Modern African Studies, 61(3): p. 439-462.

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

The Autocratic Citizen: Partisanship and Political Socialization under Dictatorship

In places where elections do not alter the balance of power, why do ordinary citizens bother to get involved in politics? For those who do get involved, why do some choose to support the opposition while others support the ruling party? Electoral autocracies are now the modal type of autocratic regime in the modern world, and millions of citizens living in these regimes profess to support a political party. Yet, political science lacks a unified theory of partisanship in electoral autocracies. Questioning the dominating materialist framework for understanding political behavior in such contexts, this book presents an alternative view of partisanship as a social identity. Despite all the irrationality and obstacles to participating in autocratic politics, people in these regimes are socialized into becoming partisans by their partisan friends and family. Using data from an original survey fielded in Cameroon as well as survey responses from 33 regimes covered by the World Values Survey, the book shows, first, how opposition partisanship and ruling party partisanship are unique social identities. Citizens who identify as partisans hold specific political beliefs that are common across all electoral autocracies (but not democracies). Second, turning to qualitative data collected during several months of fieldwork in Cameroon, it reveals how these identities are produced at a grassroots level through a process of political socialization that occurs between friends and families, and how these identities are sustained over time within social networks. Third, returning to the original survey data—as well as Afrobarometer data—the book argues that partisan social networks are fundamentally rooted within the unique political geography of electoral autocracies, and elucidates a framework for understanding this geography, as well as its broader effects on beliefs about democracy and political legitimacy in such regimes. The book offers a framework premised in social identity theory can provide us with a unified theory of partisanship in electoral autocracies that can better predict who becomes a partisan, which political party they chose to support, and, as a result, what they choose to believe about democracy, power, and political legitimacy in their country.    

Working Papers

Partisanship and Political Socialization in Electoral Autocracies
In electoral autocracies, why do some people actively support political parties while others choose to not get 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 primarily for ideological reasons. However, we lack a unified theory of partisanship, leading to indeterminant predictions about the individual predictors of partisanship. This paper instead considers the social nature of partisanship in authoritarian regimes. Qualitative data collected in Cameroon highlights different processes of political socialization in an autocratic context, and data from an original survey shows not only that partisan homogeneity in social networks is highly predictive of individual-level partisanship, but also, at least to some extent, that partisanship can be contagious through the process of socialization within these networks.

Colonial Legacies, Collective Efficacy, and Rural Development
(with Martha Wilfahrt)

Collective efficacy—the shared expectation that a community can coordinate their actions in pursuit of a desired outcome—is critical for understanding development in rural Africa, where villagers often shoulder the brunt of local development initiatives. We argue that different modes of colonial state-building left a lasting legacy on collective efficacy. Where the colonial state was more centralized, political action was oriented upwards towards the state, undermining local collective efficacy. Using original survey data from the Ghana-Togo borderlands, we show that collective efficacy is systematically higher and collective action more common in Ghana, where colonial rule was more decentralized. This relationship is robust to several confounding factors, and we find evidence of similar dynamics elsewhere in the region. Our findings document uneven local capacity for local collective action, which holds important implications for our understanding of both the current embrace of participatory development and recent scholarship on historical legacies. 


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.