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Research

My research focuses on African politics, comparative democratization, international law and organizations, election quality, and human rights, particularly the role of international factors in regime transitions and the protection of human rights.

I have conducted research in eight African countries to examine the influence of African regional organizations on election quality and human rights:

  • Zimbabwe (2018, 2014)
  • Côte d’Ivoire (2015)
  • Ethiopia (2015) at the African Union
  • Kenya (2015, 2014, 2013)
  • Nigeria (2015) at the Economic Community of West African States
  • South Africa (2014, 2013)
  • Botswana (2013) at the Southern African Development Community
  • Tanzania (2012) at the East African Community

The dissertation project entitled, My Brother’s Keeper? The Effects of African Regional Organizations on Election Quality, relies on over 300 extended elite interviews. The dissertation project reflects my belief in a mixed methods approach to research. As part of the project, I conduct a quantitative analysis of the determinants of election quality and the protection of human rights, including an assessment of African regional organizations’ election assistance.

Fieldwork in Eight African Countries

Research Themes

Regional Organizations and International Law

Research on the determinants of electoral integrity and human rights has disproportionately focused on the role of international observers and global institutions, such as the UNDP. African regional organizations, such as East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and Southern African Development Community (SADC) among other organizations and multilateral programs, such as NEPAD and APRM, have increasingly become involved in election and human rights-related concerns. In particular, African regional organizations embrace de jure commitments to democracy, good governance, and the protection of human rights in treaties, protocols, and guidelines. Nevertheless, efforts to promote free and fair elections and protect human rights vary across regions and elections. What explains the highly variable behavior of African regional organizations? In addition to explaining regional intervention, it is important to discern the influence of regional organization interventions on election quality and human rights outcomes. On a broader level, the regional dimension is crucial for explaining the prospects for realizing increased integration across the African continent.

Public Opinion

I explore public opinion on regional organizations, international law, election quality, and human rights protection. The Afrobarometer survey offers significant insights into whether citizens believe that regional organizations and neighboring countries contribute to enhancing election quality and protecting human rights. The survey also provides data on citizen perceptions of election quality and the experiences related to human rights. My research focuses on the individual level determinants, as well as considers the character of past incidents of electoral malfeasance and human rights abuse and the action or inaction of regional neighbors.

Determinants of Election Quality and Human Rights Protection

One of the major themes in my research involves describing and explaining the relative influence of domestic and international forces. In particular, outcomes for election quality reflect a domestic calculous and the diffusion of regional practice that raises or lowers quality. The same is true for the protection of human rights. Instead of treating international factors as contextual conditions, my work animates the mechanisms through which regional and international factors shape outcomes. At the same time, my research illustrates how international forces interact with equally important domestic forces to produce election quality and human rights outcomes.

Attitudes of Political Elites

I examine the development of political parties and the attitudes of political elites in African countries. The aim is to understand how elite attitudes influence the prospects for democratization and election quality, including elites' views on political party structures (e.g., internal party democracy, primary elections).

Research Awards

  • Dissertation Completion Fellowship, Michigan State University (2017)
  • University Fellowship, Michigan State University (2015, 2014)
  • Graduate Student Research Enhancement Award, Michigan State University College of Arts and Sciences (2013)
  • Departmental Summer Fieldwork Fellowship, Michigan State University Department of Political Science (2013)
  • Departmental Summer Fieldwork Fellowship, Michigan State University Department of Political Science (2012)