Uncivic Legacies: Civil Society & Democracy Promotion in Post-Conflict Africa Winner, Best Dissertation Award, Western Political Science Association, 2020
My book project addresses a question of global significance: How do societies build democracy after war? In the past two decades, international donors have allocated approximately 25 billion USD to civil society organizations (CSOs) in African countries affected by civil war. I focus on the phenomenon of civil society-led democratization in post-conflict settings by analyzing the understudied role of CSO leaders. These leaders – critical actors in democratization and development – are tasked with reconstituting pro-social norms and practices after war. Yet, both the policy and academic communities overlook a fundamental fact when investing in CSOs in post-conflict settings: CSOs and their leaders face significant obstacles to achieving their goals of democracy and peace.
In this book, I demonstrate that the democratic potential of CSOs and their leaders in the post-war environment is shaped by two key factors: the wartime experience of leaders and their constituents and the polarized climate in which they operate. These findings have implications for post-conflict democratization by raising questions about relying on war-traumatized CSO leaders to facilitate democratic culture among reticent populations.
I employ a multi-method research strategy, using original data gathered over years of fieldwork in Côte d’Ivoire collected through interviews, participant observation, and focus groups with CSO leaders, government officials, and international donors; a survey of CSOs; surveys and experiments with citizens; and lab-in-the-field games with CSO leaders.