Graduate Student Placement


The following are graduate students for whom I served as dissertation committee chair.





Khairunnisa Mohamedali, “Negotiating the State: The Development of Informal and Formal State Institutions in Contemporary Uganda and Kenya”


This dissertation shows how relationships between state elite coalitions and business groups develop in the contexts where the credibility of commitment generally is suspect. Through extensive field research in Kenya and Uganda, Khairunnisa found that state – business relations reflected the priority and strategies of risk management. Businesses engaging with centralized and hierarchical patronage-based elite networks solved their risk management problems through privileging the benefits of political protection; in essence, the creation of oligopolies in the business realm and the servicing of patronage networks in the political realm. Businesses facing fragmented elite coalitions have to resort to the precarious use of formal state institutions, and insist instead on the rule of law (including more scrupulous business pursuit of formal licensing and payment of taxes) and delivery of state promises to provide services.  The implication of these findings is that external efforts to promote commercial interests may strengthen patronage-based political systems and entrench suboptimal investment patterns. More durable business interest in the rule of law and capable formal institutions of the state may require fragmented state elite networks, which the Kenya case shows may be prone to greater risks of violent competition.


Khairunnisa is bound for the world of policy where her ideas and analyses will find practical applications





Romain Malejacq, “Neo-Chiefs in the International State System—Power Strategies and Authority in Afghanistan (1992 to the Present)”

            [Dual Degree with Ecole doctorale de Sciences-Po, advisor: Bertrand Badie, resulting in the award of a PhD at each institution.]

            (Romain blogs at


This dissertation research focuses on the strategies that Afghan “warlords” use to consolidate and legitimate their authority. Romain begins by testing the assumption that post-2011 state-building in Afghanistan diminishes the authority of these actors. Through careful field research in Afghanistan over several years, Romain discovered the mechanisms through which these actors engage in “power conversion,” or the redeployment of their influence in political, commercial, religious and other social networks to maintain their authority. He finds that key elements of state-building strategies, including a variety of counterinsurgency efforts and numerous administrative reforms, unintentionally assisted in these “power conversion” strategies.  In sum, he shows how pressures on actors in the global periphery to construct their authority in conformity to a set of international standards and norms results instead in the construction of hybrid authorities that include sub-state actors that exercise substantial autonomous capacities to engage in their own brand of “international” relations in their searches for resources and support.


Assistant Professor, Radboud University & Nijmegen School of management’s Centre for International Conflict Analysis and Management (Netherlands) from 2013



Sean Burns, “One Hand? Military Structure and Middle East Revolts”


This research explores how regime strategies of control over militaries prior to revolts in the Middle East shape how these revolts evolve. In a nutshell, Sean finds that all of these pre-conflict regimes engaged in patronage-based strategies of control. But those that used the hierarchical structures of military commands as vehicles for patronage left these militaries with enough institutional cohesion such that they could act as conservative stabilizing successors to old authoritarian regimes. This in turn left this kind of military with capacities to manage and limit political violence and to support the cohesion of other state institutions. Pre-conflict authoritarian regimes that sought to undermine military cohesion through close personal ties between political leaders and officers often sponsored non-official militias, processes that fragmented the exercise of coercion in these societies. These revolts have experienced prolonged political instability that has undermined other state institutions and led to conditions that resemble so called “collapsed states” in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere.  Sean also explores how these sobering conclusions have provided incentives to foreign actors to support authoritarian rulers who are known to foster conditions that in the long-term lead to a devastating fragmentation of institutions that are essential to the maintenance of order.


            Lecturer in Residence, Northwestern University – Qatar, from 2011



Ariel Zellman, “Security or Identity? Narratives of State & Nation in International Territorial Disputes”

            (Ariel blogs at


Ariel studies the politicization of identity in the context of irredentist claims. Despite seemingly overwhelming incentives to avoid such claims, Ariel finds that territorial claims on the basis of an ethnic group’s connection to that territory at the level of national politics are surprisingly common. Ariel’s critical observation is that territorial claims do not spring from the instrumental designs of nationalist politicians or ethnic extremists who outbid each other to adopt progressively more hard-line postures. Ariel grapples directly with the idea of the “political entrepreneur” in the works of economists (such as Paul Collier) and political scientists (such as Robert Bates, David Laitin and Jim Fearon) who focus on elite-level incentives to explain the appearance and evolution of ethnic conflict. Ariel finds that grassroots social movements drive persisting territorial claims, despite substantial costs in terms of economic well-being and international standing. Through societal interpretations of what he terms ethno-historical evidence—archeological and other evidence of ancestral occupation of territory—mass political movements coalesce. The instrumental politicians from standard rational choice explanations are consequences rather than causes of this development. These broad-based movements interpret politics in ways that are internally consistent and are resistant to carrots and sticks that outsiders wield. Ariel’s approach suggests that irredentist politics at a popular level is more prevalent than one generally imagines (i.e. expansionist Bulgarians, Bolivians who have axes to grind with Chile and so forth). Thus Ariel views the post-1945 world’s prohibition of conquest to only temporarily put the genie of irredentism back in the bottle, much as the Congress of Vienna was supposed to banish nationalism back in 1815.


            Post-doc, Taub center for Israeli Studies, New York University (2012-13). He is off to Hebrew University in 2013




Kendra Koivu, “Organized Crime and the State: State-Building, Illicit Markets, and Governance Structures”


Most people assume that states and organized crime groups (OCGs) commonly exist in opposition to one another; i.e., that strong states and repress OCGs, and that weak sates are overrun by them. Kendra finds instead that some strong states have strong OCGs (such as contemporary Japan) and that some weak states coexist with weak OCGs (such as interwar Finland). Kendra develops a transactional model to explain these and other surprising outcomes. Kendra’s model specifies a range of relationships, from collusion to collision between states and OCGs that arise out of state agents’ efforts to solve problems related to market regulation. Kendra discovers that it is not unusual for some state officials to attempt to recruit OCGs to carry out tasks commonly associated with states, particularly where this involves efforts to restrict competition and bolster market penetration beyond a state’s borders.  More generally, Kendra explores how a variety of strategies for state management of violent actors contributes to state-building efforts, and shapes the long-term relationship between state power and coercion.


Assistant Professor, University of New Mexico from 2012



Erin Kimball Damman, “Peacekeeping for Approval: The Rise of African-Led Interventions”


Erin’s dissertation tackles a basic question: What accounts for cooperation among a disparate group of African countries to undertake armed peacekeeping operations? One would think that widely varied capabilities, long-term fears of military involvement in domestic politics, and regional norms against overt infringement on the sovereignty of other African states would discourage such cooperation.  Erin tests a range of explanations for this cooperation such as the influence of new norms that encourage intervention to prevent atrocities, shifts in regional geo-strategic balances, and hegemonic management of cooperation under the label of US-led security strategies in Africa. Erin finds instead that domestic political considerations drive decisions about whether or not to participate in peacekeeping operations. Decisions to cooperate tend to emerge out of efforts on the part of leaders to extract more resources from powerful external patrons that they can then use to manage members of their own coalitions. Peacekeeping also serves as an instrument to recruit foreigners to help limit the domestic political roles of armed forces. Erin finds that these relationships underlying mobilization for warfare reinforce patron-client logics of domestic politics rather than increasing the bureaucratic capacities and efficacy of governments that participate in peacekeeping. She uses the case of Ethiopia’s intervention in African conflicts as a counterfactual to illustrate this divergence in the logics of decisions to use force and the divergent outcomes in these decisions’ effects.


Assistant Professor, Florida International University from 2013



Christopher Day, “The Fates of Rebels: The Politics of Insurgency Survival and Demise”



Before joining our program Chris Day earned his MA in International Affairs from SAIS. Chris also worked for about nine years with humanitarian aid organizations. This work took him to conflict zones and put him in positions in which he had to negotiate with armed actors on the ground in places that included Nigeria’s delta region, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Uganda and Kashmir.  Chris’s dissertation builds on observations from those experiences and on extensive fielded research in Sierra Leone, Uganda and South Sudan to address the question: What happens to the great majority of rebel groups that fail to consolidate and seize state power, and what do their fates reveal about the nature of past and contemporary rebel warfare?  Chris explains how patron-client networks dominate the conduct of warfare in some countries. In many instances, rebellion becomes an instrument of negotiation within an intra-elite coalition. Political actors in neighboring states discover that they can use patronage of rebel groups to pursue their own agendas, illustrating further the intersections of established political networks and violent action.


Associate Professor, College of Charleston (from 2012)





Natacha Lemasle, “Political Strategies of Local Actors in the Shadow of International Projects of Post-conflict Reconstruction”


Natacha Lemasle earned her degree in the joint Northwestern University – Sciences Po PhD program, with Prof. Samy Cohen at Sciences Po serving as a co-chair of her dissertation committee. She is concerned with how local actors in Sierra Leone and Liberia engage with the international “post-conflict reconstruction and democratization industry.”  She finds that local actors often hold ideas about legitimate authority that are at odds with global liberal notions of citizenship and individual rights.  They also may hold contrary ideas about post-conflict justice.  Nonetheless, post-conflict international engagement often requires acceptance and application of the imported models of politics. Her research in Sierra Leone indicates that local actors devise strategies “from below” to modify and on occasion undermine the plans of outsiders. Understanding this process is critical for mapping the true configuration of post-conflict political authority in these places and identifying potential flash-points for future conflict.


Fragile States and Conflict Unit, World Bank (from 2010)





Patrick Johnston, “Humanitarian Intervention and the Logic of Genocide in Civil War.” 



Patrick Johnston asks whether and under what conditions state targeting of civilians is and effective strategy for defeating rebels. He considers this question in the context of the cases of the US in the Philippine War (1900-02), in Vietnam (the 1960s to 1973) and Sudan in Darfur (2000s). Patrick also has constructed his own data set of significant instances of state rebel campaigns since 1800. Combining his analysis of these cases and his larger data set, Patrick finds that the application of force in areas where rebels operate among non-combatants is a successful device for separating rebels from non-combatants. Non-combatants conclude that it is in their interests to move to safer areas under government control, or provide information to government forces to expand such areas. Patrick’s research shows that non-combatants do not remain static and behave according to bounded calculations concerning which force asserts the most control at a given moment. Governments can use this behavior to expand its areas of control in ways that do not rely critically on “hearts and minds” campaigns to out-govern rebel forces in contested areas.


Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) Stanford University pre-doctoral fellow (2007-09).

Harvard University Belfer Center—Post-doc (2009-10)

Currently Associate Political Scientist, RAND Corporation (Washington DC area)





Lee Seymour, “Pathways to Secession: Mapping the Institutional Effect of Secessionist Violence”



Lee Seymour’s dissertation explores the “international relations” of separatist insurgencies. He shows how some separatists successfully utilize appeals to global norms to extract resources and diplomatic protection from more powerful international actors. They become adept at focusing appeals to the interests and anxieties of different constituencies to create political opportunities for themselves. Regional configurations of power, however, exercise considerable influence over the utility of these strategies. These strategies, coupled with shifts in global politics, give separatists new openings to achieve their goals in recent years. But these “gains” are contingent upon occupying a geo-strategic position that allows separatists to exploit these opportunities, a condition that not all share. Seymour conducted field research for this project in Somalia (Somaliland), Sudan (southern parts), Armenia (Nagorno-Karabakh), and in Kosovo. Seymour won a Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Fellowship (2003-06) United States Institute of Peace, Peace Scholar Dissertation Fellowship (2006-07), and a Presidential Fellowship (2006-08) and was a Guest Researcher at Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (Berlin). 


Harvard University Belfer Center – Post-doc (2008-09)

Assistant Professor, University of Leiden (since 2009)





Claire Metelits, “Coercion and Collusion: Change in Rebel Group Treatment of Civilians”



This dissertation explores why some rebel groups undertake radical shifts in their behavior toward civilians, seemingly without regard to the resource endowments or external diplomatic norms that they find in their external environments.  Metelits explains rebel group behavior in terms of degrees of control over local people and resources. If rebels exercise something close to a monopoly of control, they are more willing to engage in “democratic openings” to local people and involve these people in their day to day decision-making processes. Where this control is challenged, they are more likely to become more coercive toward local people. Ironically, this means that rebels who face states that engage in their own democratic openings are most likely to become more violent toward local people. In short, global norms of democratic rule seem to gain the most traction among rebels secure in their control and are most actively defied by those who are most challenged. Rebel “state-building” is very much about control and much less about attracting popular support in this analysis. Metelits conducted field research in Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan, Colombia, and southern Sudan and received support from the Dispute Resolution Research Center of the Kellogg School of Business, Northwestern University and other sources.


            Washington State University – Assistant Professor (since 2007)

            Davidson College – Visiting Assistant Professor (2013- )





Ato Kwamena Onoma, “Rethinking the Causes of Property Rights Regimes: Botswana, Kenya and Ghana in Comparative Perspective”



Onoma’s dissertation asks why people who own real estate in some African countries sometimes resist reform efforts that would give them greater legal capabilities to defend their title to this property. One would think that all owners of real estate would prefer such reforms, since such reforms should increase the value of properties as collateral for loans when rights become more clearly defined and exclusive.  Instead, Onoma finds that owners of real estate in patronage-based political systems find more value in legal uncertainty. They use their political positions to exploit others’ uncertainties, and reap short-term gains through their control over real estate. Onoma finds that this kind of behavior rooted in the configurations of elite accommodations in their higher levels of state power. He shows where legal reform of land tenure is likely to be defied by ostensible beneficiaries and where it will be exploited in a manner that will support the growth of predictable markets for land and bolster credit markets.  Onoma conducted about a year and a half of field research for this project in Ghana, Botswana and Kenya and received support from the Social Science Research Council and other sources.


            Princeton University – Postdoc at Center for Globalization and Governance

            Yale University – Assistant Professor (2007 - 2012)

            African Centre for Peace and Security Training (Addis Ababa) -- Head



Birol Baskan, “Religious Institutions and the Diverging Processes of State-

            Building in Turkey and Iran”


Birol Baskan’s dissertation explores diverging historical evolutions of relations between state institutions and religious organizations in Iran and Ottoman Turkey.  Baskan traces the merger of religious institutions with state institutions as state rulers attempted to expand the scope of their authority from the 17th and 18th centuries to the 20th century. Baskan identifies differences in the organizational structure of Sunni and Shia religious organizations as key factors shaping these diverging paths of evolution. In the case of the latter in Iran, state building projects were more easily absorbed into the decentralized structures of Shia organizations (which were initiated as a state project in a massive conversion of the country’s religious establishment). Ironically, what appeared to be an easy target for state builders from an institutional perspective in one case turned out to be the more easily managed (from the state-builder’s perspective) while the more centrally organized one was more easily controlled. This dissertation sheds new light on the role of religious organizations in the state-building process, and provides a basis for a revised look at the role of these organizations in European state building too.  Fluent in Turkish and Persian, Baskan was able to conduct on-site research for this project.


            Qatar University – Assistant Professor (2007-10)

            Georgetown University, School of Foreign Service (Qatar Campus) – Assistant Professor (since 2010)



Roshen Hendrickson


            CUNY – Staten Island – Assistant Professor





Christina Nyström, “the Patrimonial Straightjacket: A Study of Namibian Liberation and Path Dependency”


Christina Nyström’s dissertation investigates the politics of institution-building and foreign assistance in post-conflict Namibia. Christina conducted field research in that country to determine the impact of efforts among domestic and foreign actors to integrate the organizational structures and practices of the liberation movement into day-to-day governance. Her main finding is that what seemed to be incentives to adopt practices to strengthen formal institutions of the state instead bolstered the personalist networks of the liberation movement. What had been affective instruments of recruitment and control during the struggle for independence became instruments of clientelist politics after the struggle. This occurred in spite of the lessons that domestic and international actors thought that they had learned from earlier post-conflict transitions.


School administrator and teacher in Sweden





Krista Johnson, “From Consensual Decision-making to Conventional Politics: Popular Participation in Contemporary South Africa”


            DePaul University – Assistant Professor (2002-05)

            Agnes Scott College – Assistant Professor (from 2005)

            Howard University – Department of African Studies