Open only to doctoral students based at universities within the U.S.

Workshop dates:
Spring- June 4-8, 2014 in Berkeley, California
Fall- September 17-21, 2014 in Arlington, Virginia

Public officials do their jobs in different ways in different times and places. Some distribute resources and opportunities--including jobs, contracts, subsidies, and services--on the basis of broadly rational criteria like demonstrated need and ability. Others allocate assets and access on the basis of more particularistic criteria including partisan loyalties, political payoffs, family ties, and bribery. And many are unwilling or unable to do their jobs at all—with more or less predictable consequences for the well being of their constituents. In fact, the World Bank holds that "one in four people on the planet, more than 1.5 billion, live in fragile and conflict-affected states or in countries with high levels of criminal violence."

The field of state building and governance addresses the roots and manifestations of public authority in different agencies, countries, regions, and time periods. Specific questions to be addressed might include: What are the origins and underpinnings of institutions like professional (or merit-based) bureaucracies, independent judiciaries, autonomous central banks, and military deference to civilian authority? Are corruption and cronyism products of colonialism, culture, commodity booms, or more contingent historical circumstances? Are war-making and state-making really complementary historical processes, or might they at times prove orthogonal or antagonistic to each other? What is the relationship between regime type and public sector performance? And how--if at all--can the rule of law be established in fragile states where the law itself is, by definition, a feeble instrument?

The answers to these and related questions are unlikely to be found in a single discipline or method, and we therefore invite proposals that address the possibilities and limits of public authority from different disciplinary (or interdisciplinary) perspectives and/or methodological starting points. Examples would include, but by no means be limited to, archival research on the development or consolidation of public authority in particular agencies or settings; comparisons of comparable agencies or institutions in distinct countries or contexts; ethnographic studies of state-builders or street-level bureaucrats in action; analyses of the discourses and practices that help constitute or reproduce public authority; survey research (and survey-based experiments) designed to elicit sensitive information on controversial subjects (e.g., corruption and cronyism); field experiments on bureaucratic responses to different "treatments" (e.g., appeals from constituents of different races, classes, or genders); and econometric research on the relationship between state structure and public sector performance within or across countries and time periods. Key actors to be studied include not only public officials but their private interlocutors (e.g., businesspeople, labor leaders, community activists, armed revolutionaries, party officials, and voters), and potential research sites include not only government agencies but the organizations and communities in which they make their mark.

Our goal is to bring together students of the state from a broad range of disciplines including history, political science, sociology, anthropology, geography, economics and related fields. We are particularly interested in proposals that take local and historical context seriously without sacrificing the quest for generality, use old data in new and exciting ways, pay careful attention to the conceptualization and measurement of state capacity itself, identify causal effects in a convincing manner, and/or bring multiple methods to bear on their questions. Proposals that address state building and governance with regard to any world region and time period are welcome, and proposals that address the relationship between state-building (as a historical process) and governance (as contemporary practice) are particularly desirable.


  • Teresa Bornschlegl

    Clark University, Geography

    Extracting enforcement or enforcing extraction? Environmental law enforcement in the hydrocarbon sector in Ecuador.
    My topic of research is the role of the state in environmental regulation within natural resource governance examined through a case study of the processes of environmental law enforcement in the hydrocarbon sector in Ecuador. My main question is whether the socio-ecological provision in the new Constitution of 2008 has provoked changes in the practices through which environmental laws are enforced in Ecuador's hydrocarbon industry. My research aims at generating knowledge on the root causes of the globally observed under-enforcement of environmental legal frameworks, and the potential of socio-ecological constitutional provisions to improve such a situation. I do so by looking at processes of state-building and practices of environmental law enforcement through the lens of regulation theory. I answer these questions through a combination of quantitative and qualitative study of the regulatory agencies responsible for environmental monitoring of the hydrocarbon sector in the years 1998 to 2013 in Ecuador.
  • James Thomas Erbaugh

    University of Michigan, Natural Resources and Environment

    Regulating Forest Territory and Flow: Analyzing Different Approaches to Sustainable Forest Governance in Indonesia
    Many analyses conclude that reducing carbon emission through sustainable management of tropical forests is one of the most cost effective methods for reducing global emissions and mitigating effects of climate change. Multiple governance strategies regulate tropical forests to promote sustainable forest management, but literature on these different approaches does not address how they operate together. I consider how regulation that governs forest territory and regulation that governs the flow of forest commodities is implemented within the valuable and threatened forests of Indonesia. By tracing policy networks, using remote sensing, and surveying rural households, I produce research that ties the history of Indonesian state-building with the present implementation and outcomes of internationally sanctioned forest governance. This academically rigorous and policy-relevant work spans scales, sites, and methods to better understand Indonesian forest governance.
  • Jia Feng

    University of California / Los Angeles, History

    The Emperor's Coffer: the Qing Imperial Accounting Division between the Emperor's Budget and that of the State, 1644-1851
    Usually considered as the summit of despotic power in Chinese history, the Qing (1644-1911), however, exhibits the complexities in its institutional designs, in which the one with the seemingly most despotic guise could in turn play the opposite role of institutional checks on despotic power per se. This paradox of serving for the emperor's insatiable appetite for power and wealth, while in turn imposing checks upon the emperor's "despotic" desire, finds its best representation in the operation of Qing Imperial Household Department. While aiming to understand several major Qing political problems, I set foothold upon the imperial accounting division between the emperor's budget and that of the state for their answers. I argue that while the Manchu bao-i helped strengthen the emperor's despotic power in multiple secret ways, it's the Confucian political ideology that imposed the final check in the way that in public the inner court's purse should not transcend the imperial accounting line to change hands of the state's money into the emperor's own.
  • Marianne Paulina Gonzalez Le Saux

    Columbia University, History

    Mediated Justice: Legal Intermediaries, Popular Classes, and the Politics of Access to Justice in Chile, 1920-1980
    My dissertation addresses the relationship between the popular classes and the justice system in twentieth-century Chile. It specifically focuses on institutions and individuals who acted as legal intermediaries between the poor and the courts, such as private lawyers, informal legal practitioners, labor unions, NGOs, the public legal aid service, and the Church. It seeks to analyze historically how these legal brokers, with distinct political motivations, screened, translated, and shaped the interests of the lower classes within the justice system. This research highlights the judicial side of the struggles over the creation of the Chilean welfare state from the 1920s on, and the violent attempt at its dismantling by Pinochet's dictatorship after 1973. It provides a locally grounded account of the courts' role in the processes of social change in Latin America, and reframes in historical terms the debate on the weakness of the rule of law in the region.
  • Kyrstin Mallon Andrews

    Tulane University, Anthropology

    Health Surveillance and Border Security on Hispaniola: The Specter of Humanitarian Aid at the Dominican Frontier
    Since independence the border has long been a place where the Dominican Republic performs statehood and sovereignty in contrast to Haiti. The 2010 earthquake and cholera outbreak in Haiti have instigated new technologies of border control that reflect the Dominican state's anxieties regarding health and immigration. This project builds from historical studies of Haitian-Dominican relations to analyze what it might mean for the Dominican state to formulate a national identity in contrast to a rapidly privatizing Haitian state. Through ethnographic and historic research and analysis of the border as a site of surveillance, this project explores how state reactions to international humanitarian aid influence practices of governance at the national border.
  • Simeon J. Newman

    University of Michigan, Sociology

    The Politics of Property Formalization: The Motives and Effects of Urban Land-Titling in Peru and Venezuela
    This research will explicate the motivations for, and political impact of, states' attempts to establish formal, legal relationships with urban squatters by granting them title deeds. It employs a paired-comparison research design to examine the politics of formalization in Peru under Fujimori (1990-2000) and Venezuela under Chávez (1999-2012). In both cases, party-system collapse brought plebiscitary executives to power, these executives enjoyed the support of the urban poor, and they implemented massive formalization programs. But these governments' national-level political projects diverged sharply: Fujimori oversaw a shift from electoral-leftist to rightist modal politics, while Chávez spearheaded a transition from a strong center-right to electoral-leftism. This research will answer two questions. First, were these regimes' reasons for undertaking formalization campaigns similar (e.g., patronage) or different (e.g., ideologically motivated)? Second, did formalization affect the politics of the urban poor, and, if so, were effects similar across cases, specific to each political project, or contingent?
  • David Peyton

    Northwestern University, Political Science

    Warfare, Municipal Development, and the Congolese State Building Project: Explaining Institutional Variation in North Kivu’s Conflict-Affected Cities
    Contemporary wars in Sub-Saharan Africa propel the growth of cities. While the demographic and spatial impacts of this trend are well documented, its effects on urban institutions are less clear. This study examines institutional variation in urban contexts marked by weak state authority, international peacekeeping, humanitarian aid, and other aspects of modern conflict. Two geographically proximate cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Goma and Butembo, provide ideal cases for subnational comparative analysis. Although these cities experienced similar demographic, spatial, and economic growth during the Congo Wars (1996-2003), their urban institutions followed drastically different paths of development. Goma experienced institutional stagnation, whereas Butembo adopted impressive institutional reforms. This study proposes that specific elite coalitions and collective action dilemmas that emerge in response to conflict explain this variation. The divergent institutional legacies that war produces in cities complicate center-periphery power dynamics and pose nettlesome challenges to post-conflict state building projects.
  • Juan Diego Prieto

    University of California / Santa Cruz, Politics

    Scaling Down to the Mines: The Microdynamics of the Resource Curse in Colombia and Peru
    Large-scale natural resource extraction continues to be seen by governments around the world as an avenue for growth, even in the face of social mobilization against it and despite scholars' cautions about the pitfalls of extractives-based development. In any case, the question of whether natural resource wealth is inevitably a curse for those living above it, or whether it is possible to turn it into a means for enhancing the population's well-being, remains largely unanswered. Through in-depth case studies of mining localities in Colombia and Peru, this project will seek to shed light on the contextual factors that determine positive and negative outcomes. Specifically, it will attempt to establish what configurations of institutions and social forces are most successful at gearing resource extraction toward improving the local population's living conditions.
  • Michael Roll

    University of Wisconsin / Madison, Sociology

    Pockets of Effectiveness: Strong Public Organizations in Weak States in West Africa
    Compared to the literature on differences in state capacity between developing countries, little attention has been paid to variation in state capacity within these countries. In this project I challenge common notions of the state in developing countries as outright weak or patrimonial. I focus on the counter-intuitive phenomenon of strong public organizations that successfully deliver public goods or services. Why and how do such "pockets of effectiveness" emerge and survive? What do they tell us about state-society relations and politics? What can they contribute to state-building? I will study public organizations in Nigeria, often referred to as the quintessential patrimonial country. To identify the factors and mechanisms that explain bureaucratic effectiveness in hostile contexts, I will use a matched-pairs design and compare two effective organizations with comparable ineffective organizations. For drawing broader conclusions, I will study the matching organizations in Ghana, the strongest state in West Africa.
  • Mariano Sanchez Talanquer

    Cornell University, Government

    State formation, political order, and the origins of local authority in Mexico and Colombia
    The extraordinary levels of violent crime and public insecurity that have affected Mexico and Colombia in the "war on drugs" reveal a deep-seated incapacity of the state to regulate social relations and enforce the rule of law. Yet considerable sub-national variation exists in the state's capacity to monopolize force and provide order within its boundaries. The vacuum of authority at lower levels of governance in some regions has made them particularly prone to the predatory control of criminal groups, the emergence of other organizations of private violence, and vicious cycles of corruption, violence, and institutional weakness. This project aims to explain the unevenness of state authority in both countries through a comparative historical analysis of the development of core state capabilities -taxation, coercion, and administration of justice- in the local dimension. The institutional legacies of critical moments of state-building help explain the contemporary porousness of the rule of law.
  • Julia Tierney

    University of California / Berkeley, City Planning

    Governing Beirut by Security
    Security is a dominant paradigm of governance, and Beirut is a paradigmatic city of governing by security. Although militias no longer brazenly patrol its streets and divide its neighborhoods with checkpoints as during the civil war, when the bullet-ridden divide between Muslim West and Christian East symbolized sectarian violence, today Beirut is entangled by barricades and barbed wire and guarded by myriad security forces blurring indistinctions between the state and that provided on a predominantly sectarian basis. Where the state is defined as the monopoly over the means of violence, this is a study of how the state negotiates security with a continuum of armed actors standing both inside and outside the government. Asking how security is provided amidst this multiplicity of armed authorities, it uses ethnographic methods to study how security further territorializes sectarianism in Beirut and to theorize governance by security resonates in cities perhaps more familiar.
  • Giancarlo Visconti

    Columbia University, Political Science

    The emergence of political parties in unstable and non-democratic countries
    What explains the emergence of political parties in 19th century Latin America? Elites always have conflicts that divide them, but in some cases these are more significant and prone to crystallize into political parties. The most salient issues after independence were the Liberal and Conservative conflict that separated the elite in terms of the role of the Church in the state, and the Federal and Unitary dispute about the distribution of political power among the main cities. I argue that the salience of the first conflict bolstered the formation of an early party system, while the second one undermined it. The salience of the Liberal and Conservative division is explained by the lack of threats from below and the Federal and Unitary conflict by the development of colonial non-capital cities. These two historical legacies affected the state building and governance in the region through the development of early party systems.