Individual Projects

Everyday Repression in Southeast Asia

This new book project seeks to account for the different practices of repression across Southeast Asia. Given that autocratic regimes are routinely challenged by civil society groups, opposition parties and engaged citizens throughout the region, what explains the significant variation we observe in the target, scope and severity of repression.

"Personalist Dictatorships and Measurement Validity"

This paper questions how authoritarian regime datasets classify (and do not classify) personalist dictatorships. Despite widespread use of these cross-sectional time-series tools in comparative politics, very little attention has been paid to the quality of the judgments contained within them. This paper offers a closer examination and finds basic problems concerning well-established standards of measurement validity. A particular concern is the systemization, operationalization and scoring procedures employed, which struggle to meaningfully capture the corresponding concept of personalist dictatorship. The paper concludes by questioning the reliability of empirical inferences based on these datasets, including whether personalist dictatorships will undergo democratization, commit repression and initiate war.

Collaborative Projects

"Parliaments under Fire: Conceptualizing and Operationalizing Legislative Closure" (with Lindsay Benstead, Margaret Hanson, Allison Hartnett, Ben Noble, Paul Schuler, Matthew Wilson, Josef Woldense)

Why do political leaders close down legislatures? In spite of the recent work on legislatures in non democracies, we know little about when, how, and why these bodies’ activities are disrupted. This paper – written by members of the ‘Parliaments Under Fire’ project – evaluates the existing cross-national data available on closure episodes, noting the frequent discrepancies in coding decisions between two popular datasets: Democracy and Dictatorship (Cheibub, Gandhi & Vreeland 2010) and V-Dem (Coppedge et al. 2020). Country-case studies of closures highlight both the nature of these discrepancies, as well as issues of conceptualization and operationalization of ‘closure’. The paper proposes a classification tree of closure types to help order the variety and complexity of closure episodes, thereby contributing to the literatures on authoritarianism and legislatures.

"On the Move: Dictators, Security and Capital Relocations" (with Carl Henrik Knutsen)

Existing research shows systematic differences between democratic and autocratic regimes on several policy outcomes, including those pertaining to infrastructure and investment. In this paper, we consider one of the most sweeping policy decisions that a government may undertake: relocating the capital to a different (and often brand new) city. While a fairly rare event, we compile data on all capital relocations in independent states from 1789 to the present. Our initial analysis shows that autocracies are much more likely to relocate their capitals than democracies. This pattern holds up even when accounting for plausible confounders such as income level, urbanization, and colonial history. Next, we develop a theoretical argument on the incentives of autocrats to retain the old capital or relocate to a new city. Existing studies on capital relocations, mostly from other disciplines, have highlighted motives that often reflect the public statements of leaders, such as environmental concerns, boosting economic development, or enhancing national unity. In contrast, our argument focuses on less sanguine motivations, notably the relocation of capitals as a means for autocratic regimes to mitigate internal or external security threats and thus reduce the probability of regime breakdown. Drawing on several illustrative case studies, including recent ones from Kazakhstan and Myanmar, we focus in particular on the incentives to relocate capitals to less populated cities and areas where popular uprisings or coups threatening the regime are less likely to occur. We derive several empirical implications from this argument. We subsequently test these empirical implications on our extensive global dataset, using different estimators and model specifications. While several causal processes may be consistent with our findings, we submit that the most plausible interpretation of these findings is that autocratic regimes relocate capitals mainly for reasons of mitigating threats to their own rule, along the lines of our argument.

"Hegemony Party Equilibrium" (with Milan Svolik)

"Autocratic Assassins" (with Sheena Greitens and Tore Wig)