When do Women Win in Legally Plural Systems? Evidence from Ghana and Senegal At the advent of independence for African countries, women participated at different rates and in different ways from country to country. What accounts for such variation? Using a structured comparison of legal policies in late colonial Gold Coast and Senegal, I argue that the interaction between colonial juridical systems and pre-existing customary institutions created different opportunities for women to engage in the public sphere, generating differences in both the form and frequency of political participation in nationalist movements. In the Gold Coast, colonial administrators deferred to customary institutions except in cases that the British found “repugnant to morality or justice,” and women were sometimes able to leverage administrators’ paternalistic concern for their well-being to achieve greater independence. In Senegal, interaction between colonial and indigenous legal systems typically reinforced men’s legal and social dominance, providing few opportunities for women to assert independence. Drawing from the archival collections in London, Accra, and Dakar alongside secondary sources, I demonstrate that the different legal contexts in the two colonies created different opportunities for women to participate in the public sphere. Women in the Gold Coast subsequently took on prominent roles in nationalist politics, while women in Senegal are largely absent from the historiography of their nationalist movement.
In Progress: Explaining Successes in Africa: Things Don't Always Fall Apart (book manuscript) Scholarship on Africa tends to focus on challenge: most political and economic works examine barriers to achieving desired outcomes like political stability, good governance, and economic growth. While these challenges are real and important to consider, it is also essential to understand success. Scholars often treat African countries that perform well as outliers; they are “miracles” or “darlings” rather than countries that have made good choices in the face of adverse circumstances. Treating these countries as outliers diminishes the possibility of extracting lessons or best practices—if a country’s economic performance is a “miracle,” there is no lesson to be had. If its stable government is a function of exceptionalism, then there is no possibility of replication. This project seeks to normalize success in African countries by analyzing those that have performed particularly well in five essential categories: economy, governance, gender equality, public health, and climate resilience.
Agents of Change: Executive Leadership and Effective Gender Quotas in Africa Many African countries have adopted legislative gender quotas, but they vary in their strength: while some are effective at increasing women’s legislative representation, others are so weakly designed as to be meaningless. Why do some countries adopt strong gender quotas, while others adopt weak ones that barely change women’s rate of representation? This study employs case analysis and computer-assisted QCA to identify the factors that are important contributors to quota strength. It first employs an in-depth analysis of Senegal as a least-likely theory generating case. This qualitative analysis, informed by elite interviews from officials and civil society actors, suggests that strong women’s civil society organization and executive commitment to change are essential factors for ensuring a strong quota. The analysis proceeds to test for the presence of these and other combinations of factors in Africa’s other quota-adopting countries using computer-assisted QCA. This analysis, indicates that the commitment of executive leadership better predicts quota strength. Previous studies have focused on women’s civil society organizations as key to achieving quota adoption. This study indicates that such organizing is necessary but insufficient; absent executive leadership that is committed to the idea of increasing women’s representation, such organizing may result in toothless quotas.
Beliefs about Democracy and Political Behavior in Africa and the Middle East (with Yael Zeira) Popular support for democracy in Africa and the Middle East is strong, but what do people mean when they say they “support democracy”? According to data from the Afro and Arab Barometers, Africans and Arabs more frequently identified democracy as a system for distributing material goods (jobs, basic necessities, monetary assistance) than as a system of government defined by multiple parties, an independent legislature, or freedom of expression. In this paper, we ask two questions: first, what are the predictors of belief in democracy-as-welfare as opposed to democracy-as-procedure? Second, are these beliefs related to political behavior? Using the most recent rounds of the Afro and Arab Barometers, we conduct multi-level logistic analysis to identify individual- and country-level predictors of individuals’ understandings of democracy. We find that, in Africa, belief in democracy as welfare is more common among the poor, women, rural-dwellers, the less educated, and those who live in more democratic countries. These beliefs have important implications for political behavior: those who understand democracy-as-welfare are less likely to vote, contact officials, or attend community meetings. More than any other form of government, a functioning democracy requires the support and participation of its citizens. These findings illustrate the importance of unpacking what people mean when they say they support “democracy,” and show that these beliefs are linked to behavior. In an era of democratic erosion, these findings are also consequential in broader comparative perspective.
Comparing Renewalist Christians' Political Orientations in Latin America and Africa (with Elizabeth Sperber) Political scientists have begun to pay increasing attention to the ways in which renewalist Christian denominations—particularly Pentecostalism and Charismatic Catholicism--influence political beliefs and behavior across Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Both regions provide evidence that these renewalist denominations are different from their mainline Christian counterparts in important ways, with implications for political beliefs and behavior. These nascent but burgeoning literatures have remained regionally segregated, begging the question: how does regional context shape the influence of renewalist Christianity on political beliefs? In this paper, we undertake the first systematic comparative analysis of the relationship between membership in a renewalist denomination and political attitudes. Using survey data from Pew, we conduct a statistical analysis of the relationship between religion and political beliefs of 44,832 people across 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and 18 countries in Latin America. We find that members of renewalist churches have significantly different political beliefs than other Christians, particularly regarding the appropriate relationship between church and state. However, there is important variation between Pentecostals and Charismatic Catholics, as well as important regional variation in these relationships. This analysis enables better understanding of the similarities and differences in Pentecostals’ and Charismatic Catholics’ across different contexts.