Published Articles

Partisanship and Political Socialization in Electoral Autocracies.” Forthcoming. American Political Science Review.

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

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. 

Nonpartisanship and Support for Democracy in Autocratic Regimes

In the hyper-polarized context of an electoral autocracy, where opposition and ruling party partisans are deeply divided on basic political issues, why do some people fail to take a side? In other words, if ruling party partisans are strongly pro-regime while opposition partisans are strongly pro-democracy, it is unclear where nonpartisans—who oftentimes comprise a large majority of citizens in such regimes—stand. What does nonpartisanship mean in an autocratic regime? This paper tests several potential models of nonpartisanship. First, due to the repressive nature of autocracies, nonpartisans may be overwhelmingly apolitical. Second, just like in democracies, nonpartisans may not openly identify with a party, but still lean ideologically towards either the opposition or the regime. Third, while nonpartisans in democratic contexts are likely to lean towards any party, nonpartisans in autocratic contexts may lean overwhelmingly towards the opposition. Finally, nonpartisans may be uniquely ‘anti-establishmentarian,’ rejecting democratic values altogether. These four hypotheses are tested using World Values Survey data from electoral autocracies around the world. The results indicate that while a small proportion of nonpartisans are apolitical, the large majority are opposition-leaners. They are also slightly more likely than partisans to embrace anti-democratic views. These findings suggest that while nonpartisans are no silent bulwark for the regime, unlike opposition partisans, they may only be mobilized against the regime under narrow circumstances.