Welcome! I am an assistant professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley.
Many states are fragile, plagued by conflict or weak governance that threatens collapse. They present serious challenges for their populations and threaten international stability and security, drawing in third parties. My research agenda is about these fragile states. Looking beyond governments and their opponents, my three major projects examine the influence of third parties: international actors and civilians. In much of my work, I explore cases where these actors use conditional incentives and binding contracts, coercive tools that do not require force. Currently understudied, I show that international actors commonly use this form of influence, when they do so, and how it shapes important outcomes including peace and good governance.
My first project shows that post-conflict elections in which rebel parties participate — something that occurs following almost half of all modern peace agreements but had not been systematically studied — are often a mechanism to draw in outside observers and donors who help enforce peace agreements. In contrast with existing studies that suggest post-conflict elections can be dangerous, my work shows that this common type of election that includes combatant parties correlates with enduring peace. Moreover, this project indicates that election observation backed by donors conditioning incentives like foreign aid on compliance are crucial in stabilizing these post-conflict contexts, challenging wisdom that peacekeepers must guarantee peace agreements through the threat of force. This project also has policy implications: it identifies how the international community can assist in conflict termination at a lower cost than other forms of peacekeeping, for example. My first book, Electing Peace: From Civil Conflict to Political Participation, published by Cambridge University Press in 2017, is on this topic. It is based on my dissertation research at Stanford University, which won the 2013 Helen Dwight Reid award from the American Political Science Association for the best dissertation successfully defended in the past two years in international relations, law, and politics. Related work is also listed in Research.
My second project assesses how civilians interact with and form attitudes about combatants, civil conflict, and peace processes. This project shows that civilians removed from conflict rely on elite cues, but those close to the fighting draw on their specialized knowledge and community to form attitudes and selectively reveal controversial opinions. My work builds theory about how civilians interact with different actors and shows how those proximate to the conflict are skilled strategic actors. In contrast, much existing work views civilians merely as resources in civil conflict. This project also has implications for how policymakers can measure support for armed actors during insurgency and draw civilians into peace processes. The pieces of these projects, published and ongoing, are also described in Research.
Finally, my third project provides a new understanding of statebuilding. In contrast to existing work that focus on building states following invasion, this project examines statebuilding wherein host states delegate security: these states allow foreign missions to operate under outside authority in the police and judicial sectors, and even to reform these institutions. Delegating security is puzzling because host states are providing another sovereign entity control over the defining element of the state — force — and outsiders are consenting to constraints imposed by their cooperative relationships with these fragile states. However, using original cross-national data since 1980, I show that more than three quarters of all African states invite intervention in their security institutions, and half of these include mandates for reform overseen by the outsiders. I develop a theoretical framework to explain the causes and consequences of this type of statebuilding, which offers new ideas about when both are willing to bind their own hands, suggesting even outsiders benefit from constraints. This project also has policy implications for what effects on good governance can be expected from this statebuilding option. The pieces of this project, too, published and in the pipeline, are described in Research.
In each of these three projects, I use multiple methods to study these important questions. I collect and analyze quantitative and qualitative data, including, working with co-authors, five survey experiments (three in Colombia, one in Guatemala, and one in Mexico) and one field experiment (Côte d’Ivoire). My research has been supported by the NSF, the Minerva Research Initiative, the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, and the Center for Global Development.
I teach on civil conflict, international intervention, and statebuilding, as well as the research process, as described in Teaching.
I was a W. Glenn Campbell and Rita Ricardo-Campbell National Fellow and the Arch W. Shaw National Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University (2015-2016), a postdoctoral scholar at the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC) at the University of California, San Diego (2012-2013), and a predoctoral fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) (2010-2012). I received my Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University in September 2012. Before coming to Stanford, I was employed by the RAND Corporation. I received an undergraduate degree magna cum laude in Social Studies from Harvard University, while working with the Belfer Center’s Managing the Atom Project and with the Los Alamos National Laboratory. I was born and raised in New Mexico, so I never turn down spicy food or pass up a good soccer game.