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Forthcoming. "When do Women Win in Legally Plural Systems? Evidence from Ghana and Senegal," Journal of Modern African Studies Africa’s plural legal systems are often doubly bad for women: reinforcing patriarchal threads in indigenous practices while layering male-dominated Anglo-European laws atop. While these systems generally work to their detriment, women are sometimes able to take advantage of them. Under what conditions are women able to ‘win’ in Africa’s plural legal systems? I examine women’s interactions with the plural colonial court systems in the Gold Coast and Senegal. Based on an analysis of original court records in each country, I argue that women are more likely to win in plural legal systems in areas of operational ambiguity where applicable legal principles are contradictory. Leveraging this ambiguity enabled women in the Gold Coast and Senegal to win rights around inheritance and divorce, respectively. These victories were codified post-independence, though women face social pressures against exercising them.
2021. “Colonial Education and Women’s Political Behavior in Ghana and Senegal,” African Studies Review. 64(1): 217-241. The gender gap in political participation is larger in former French than former British colonies in Africa. Through a comparison of Senegal and the Gold Coast, this article examines how British and French colonial educational policy created different prospects for women’s engagement in public life. As compared to the British, French colonial education for girls was less widespread, more elite-oriented, and more focused on “housewifery” and restricting women to the private sphere. Relying on archival materials and secondary accounts, the article traces how these educational systems resulted in women taking on different roles in Senegal’s and Ghana’s nationalist movements.
2020. “Infrastructure and Understandings of Democracy in Zambia: Democracy Off the Rails.” African Affairs 119(447):604-302. In Zambia, some people describe their political participation as a way to transmit ideas and hold politicians accountable, while others explain their participation as a bid for resources or personal assistance. These differences follow a geographic trend, with residents of remote areas more likely to focus on substantive material gain. What accounts for this geographic variation? I argue that the centre/periphery distinction within the country influences the way people understand democracy. People living centrally are more likely to hold a procedural understanding of democracy and value democratic rules and process, while people living peripherally are more likely to hold a substantive understanding of democracy and view periodic acts like voting as a bid for resources. I employ geocoded Afrobarometer data alongside 92 original semi-structured interviews to demonstrate that those living further from Zambia’s central rail line are less likely to hold procedural understandings of democracy. I explore several mechanisms that could drive this difference, including homogeneity of remote communities and increased reliance on traditional leaders in peripheral areas. Divergent understandings of democracy between more and less remote denizens has important implications for the future of democratic regimes.
2020. “Gender and Participation in Africa’s Electoral Regimes: An Analysis of Variation in the Gender Gap.” Politics, Groups, and Identities. 8(2): 293-315. Across Africa, it has been found that women participate in politics less than men, undermining prospects for gender equality and shared development. Despite theoretical and practical reasons for concern over the “gender gap,” we lack insight into its variation across countries, particularly in Africa, where studies accept women’s lower rate of participation as a uniform background condition. I address this lacuna using four rounds of Afrobarometer data from 31 countries to identify predictors of country-level variation in the gender gap. Drawing from literature on gender gaps elsewhere, I identify institutional and structural variables thought to influence women’s political engagement relative to men’s and evaluate these hypotheses quantitatively at the cross-national level, finding that country-level gaps vary predictably based on the percentage of female legislative representatives, the duration of democracy, and French colonial history. Finally, I use the least-likely case of Senegal to explore how the process to increase women’s legislative representation coincided with a dramatic increase in women’s representation.
2019. “Taking to the Streets: Protest Behavior in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Comparative Political Studies, 52(8): 1169-1199. With Adam Harris. Between 2011 and 2014, the African Development Bank estimated that there were five times as many protests per annum in Africa as there had been in 2000. According to the Bank, the majority of these protests were related to deteriorating economic conditions, poor service delivery, inadequate wages, and economic inequality. While protest is on the rise across the continent, these protests, which we term ‘valence protests’, do not fit easily into typical narratives about contentious behaviour: they are not social movements, or revolutionary, or a manifestation of organized labour—instead, many of these protests are a collective expression of a valence issue of which the government is already well aware. We argue for a different conceptual framework for valence protests and contend that they are a way for politically engaged citizens to express their political preferences when other acts, like voting, are insufficient. Using Round 5 Afrobarometer data we find empirical support for this claim. We also find that citizens more readily use protest to communicate political preferences in countries that are governed by dominant party regimes. 2018. “Pentecostal Identity & Citizen Engagement in Sub-Saharan Africa: New Evidence from Zambia.” Politics and Religion, 11(4): 830-862With Elizabeth Sperber. Since the 1980s, Pentecostal and other born again Christian movements have become increasingly prominent in the public spheres of many sub-Saharan African states. A dearth of reliable survey data has constrained investigation of the potential influence of these religious movements on political attitudes and participation. This article analyzes original survey data from Zambia, a majority-Christian nation. This data, from a stratified random sample of 1,500-Zambians, indicates that Pentecostals do in fact share partisan preferences, and report higher levels of political interest and participation than other Christians. They are less likely, however, to contact elected officials – a finding that accords with ethnographic accounts of Pentecostal pastors as political interlocutors for their politically mobilized congregations. We further contextualize and explore the external validity of our findings using cross-national survey data collected by the Pew Forum (2010, N=9,500). We conclude by underscoring the value of further survey research on religion and politics in the region.
2017. “The Trouble with Institutions: How Women’s Policy Machineries Can Undermine Women’s Mass Participation.” Politics & Gender 13(3): 405-431. In order to explain the persistence of gender inequality in political representation and public policy, feminist scholars have increasingly focused on how various institutional rules and configurations affect women’s ability to achieve progressive goals and advance gender equality. This approach has tended to focus on politics from the top-down, with a particular focus on institutional arrangements that help or hinder progress towards gender equality. However, institutions also have the capacity to affect mass political participation. Using the case of the United National Independence Party’s Women’s Brigade in Zambia in the post-independence period, this article argues that explicit considerations of “women’s issues” through institutions can reduce women’s mass political participation. If government attempts to incorporate women into the political realm are marginalizing, they may dissuade women from engaging in the political system at all. The article urges consideration of how institutions affect mass politics in addition to representation and policy creation.
2017. “Better than Nothing: How Policies Influence Political Participation in Low-Capacity Democracies.” Governance 30(4): 583-600. A growing body of policy feedback work demonstrates that citizens’experiences with public policy influence the way they participate in politics. Most of this work takes place in advanced industrial democracies, but the nuances of policy design influencing participation in advanced democracies are often irrelevant for those in low-capacity democracies. This study extends the policy feedback framework to address how policies might “feed back” differently in low-capacity countries with uneven basic service delivery. In low-capacity democracies, the most salient distinction is between those who have access to basic state-provided services and those who do not. Using original data collected in Zambia, it demonstrates that those who have even marginal access to state services have higher levels of political engagement and political participation than those without access, indicating that imperfect extension of services may help boost democratic citizenship in developing countries.
2017. “In the Gap the State Left: Policy Feedback, Social Capital, and Collective Behavior in Zambia.” Studies in Comparative International Development 52(4): 510-531. In advanced industrial democracies, evidence suggests a positive relationship between inclusive public policy, collective behavior, and political participation. Yet Africa, which generally exhibits high levels of collective behavior, often has exclusionary policies and variable rates of political participation. Using Afrobarometer data and qualitative case analysis in Zambia, this paper argues that the links between collective behavior and political participation differ in African countries due to lower government capacity and weaker structures of accountability linking politicians to policy outcomes. Employing a policy feedback framework, it demonstrates that the policy context in which collective behavior emerges determines the extent to which it influences political participation. Specifically, low levels of service provision generate higher levels of collective behavior, indicating that communities organize in response to need. The extent to which this collective behavior results in political participation, however, depends in part on citizens’ political efficacy. 2015. “Plus Ça Change: Rural Development Policy and the Persistence of Rural Poverty in Zambia.” Afriche e Orienti, Special Issue: Rural Development and Poverty Reduction in Southern Africa: Experiences from Zambia and Malawi. Zambian rural development policy has undergone dramatic changes since the return of multiparty democracy in 1991. However, despite a series of policy changes, the government’s current approach to rural development mirrors many of the policies of the past. Unfortunately, the struggles that the current program faces replicate the struggles that have mired rural development in Zambia since Independence. This article uses original survey data collected across three Zambian provinces regarding citizens’ assessments of and experiences with the Farmer Input Support Program, the cornerstone of current rural development policy. It contextualizes these firsthand reports with national-level assessments of the programs performance, and in terms of the historical performance of Zambian rural development policy. Relying on contemporary survey data, archival data, and secondary accounts, this study demonstrates that rural development policy in Zambia continues to exhibit the same pathologies as in the 1960s, explaining the persistence of high rural poverty rates.
2013. “Perspecties on the Power and Persistence of States in Africa and Beyond.” Comparative Politics, 45(4):476-496. State legitimacy is a concept that is frequently invoked, rarely defined, and notoriously difficult to pin down. The four books under review represent three schools of thought that dominate the scholarship on the legitimacy of the African state. The first approach relies on universal standards of governance to assess state legitimacy. The second attributes legitimacy to culturally specific understandings of appropriate forms of power, and the third uses institutional coherence to evaluate the legitimacy of state rules. While each approach contains insightful and convincing pieces of scholarship, no one provides a satisfying account of legitimacy and the state. A more holistic approach to state legitimacy as a dynamic, interactive process is needed.