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Robert G. Moser, Chair BAT 2.116, Mailcode A1800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-5121

Comparative Politics

Katherine Bersch. Comparative Politics / Methodology. Thesis: When Democracies Deliver: Governance Reforms in Latin America (Weyland, Hunter, Jones, Brinks, Bussell). My dissertation, “When Democracies Deliver: Governance Reform in Latin America,” assesses two competing approaches to reforming public administration. The results of eighteen months of field research in Argentina and Brazil suggest that the approach embraced by many Latin American policymakers and international organizations—namely, swift, wholesale reform pushed through during “windows of opportunity”—does not tend to produce effective and lasting improvements. By contrast, I find that incremental changes sequenced over time are more promising, because they allow for modifications and corrections along the way and do not depend on finding the right solution ex ante, a notoriously difficult task in the complex world of policymaking. In addition, I examine the influence of different governing patterns on Brazilian and Argentine policymakers’ decisions to either embark on sweeping transformations or proceed more gradually. While Argentina’s executive power is concentrated in single-party cabinets, facilitating large-scale change, Brazil’s multi-party presidentialism frustrates “big bang” reform attempts. Yet, the absence of repeated overhauls provides opportunities for technical experts within the Brazilian government to gradually advance individually small but often cumulatively significant changes. Paradoxically, the dissertation argues, political-organizational contexts that hinder grand reform attempts may nonetheless facilitate greater long-term success. Education: PhD, University of Texas- Austin, Government (Expected Spring 2015); BA, University Notre Dame (2004). Publications: Comparative Politics (forthcoming); European Journal of Development Research (2014); Information Polity (2013) External Awards: National P.E.O. Scholar Award (2014-15); Dwight Eisenhower-Roberts Graduate Fellowship (2013-14); David Boren National Security Education Program (NSEP) Fellowship (2011-12); Fulbright IIE Fellowship (2007) Select Internal Awards: Named/Endowed Continuing Fellowship (University-wide competition; 2013-2014); Graduate School Continuing Fellowship (Fa 2012; Sp 2014); Macdonald Summer Research Fellowship (2012); Long Dissertation Fellowship (declined; 2011); John J. Kennedy Prize for best thesis on Latin America, University of Notre Dame (2004). Teaching Interests: Comparative Politics, Latin American Politics, Political Economy, Comparative Public Policy, Research Methods, Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis, Conceptualization and Measurement. Email: katherine.bersch [at] Web:

Danilo Antonio Contreras. Comparative Politics / International Relations. Thesis: Exit Over Voice in Dominican Ethnoracial Politics (Madrid, Chair). My dissertation examines the effect of ethnoracial identity on electoral politics in Latin America, focusing specifically on the Dominican Republic (D.R.), and provides an explanation for the seemingly low salience of race and ethnicity in political behavior. I argue that where ethnoracial group identity is inchoate and group boundaries are porous, individuals are more likely to manage ethnoracial stratification by reclassifying their way out of marginalized ethnosomatic categories rather than voting for candidates or parties based on ethnoracial identity. I tested my argument through a mixed methods approach, including semi-formal interviews, focus groups, and an original experiment and survey based on data collected over eight months of field research in the D.R. in 2011. Academic Appointments: Gaius Charles Bolin Fellow in Political Science, Williams College. Education: PhD Candidate, University of Texas at Austin (expected spring, 2015); BA, Government, Spanish, Georgetown University. Awards: Gaius Charles Bolin Fellowship, Williams College (2013-15); Dept. of Government Malcolm MacDonald Fellowship (2013-14; summer, 2013); Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, Honorable Mention (2012); IC2 Institute Fieldwork Grant, UT Austin McCombs School of Business (2011); US Department of Education Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship (summer, 2010); Tinker Foundation Travel Grant (summer, 2009); Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies (LLILAS) Research Grant (summer 2008); NSF EDGE-SBE Fellowship (2009-2010; 2007-2008). Publications: Latin American Research Review (Forthcoming). Teaching Interests: Comparative Politics; Race and Ethnic Politics in Latin America and the Caribbean; Latin American Politics; Social Movements in Latin America; US-Latin American Relations; Immigration in the Americas; Latino Politics; Dominico-Haitian Politics. Email:, Web Profile:

Riitta-Ilona Koivumaeki. Comparative Politics / International Relations. Thesis: Institutional Constraints on Economic Nationalism in Latin America (Weyland, Chapman, Elkins, Lin, McDonald). My dissertation examines the politics of economic nationalism in contemporary Latin America. Specifically, I evaluate the effectiveness of bilateral investment treaties (BITs) which were adopted in the region during the Washington Consensus to prevent nationalization of foreign property in the future. The first part of the dissertation analyzes whether the treaties have succeeded in deterring expropriation of multinational corporations. My quantitative analysis of state takeovers in the region in 1985-2012 shows that the treaties have proven to be surprisingly weak: unlike other components of the liberal world order, such as democratic institutions and dollarization, BITs have not constrained nationalistic executives from attacking foreign investors. The second part of the project explores the causal mechanisms behind the treaties’ weakness. I argue that commodity booms allow governments to cover the costs of expropriating BIT-protected investment. I assess the argument with a paired comparison of the recent oil & gas reforms in Venezuela and Bolivia. The case studies are based on 130 in-depth interviews and other qualitative material I collected in the field in 2012-2013. Education: PhD in Government, (expected Summer 2015); M.A. in Latin American Studies, The University of Texas at Austin, 2009; B.Soc.Sci., University of Tampere, Finland, 2007. Awards: Graduate School Continuing Fellowship, The University of Texas at Austin (Summer 2014), Macdonald Dissertation Fellowship, The University of Texas at Austin (academic year 2012-2013), Tinker Summer Field Research Grant, The University of Texas at Austin (Summer 2011, Summer 2010). Publications: Comparative Politics (forthcoming), Journal of Politics in Latin America (2010), book chapter in Rovira Kaltwasser, Cristóbal and Juan Pablo Luna (eds.), The Resilience of the Latin American Right, Johns Hopkins University Press (2014), Debates IESA (with Pedro Luis Rodríguez Sosa, forthcoming). Teaching Interests: Comparative Politics, International Relations, Latin American Politics, Comparative and International Political Economy, International Institutions, Qualitative and Mixed Research Methods. Email:, Website:

Pete Mohanty. Comparative / Methodology / Political Theory. Thesis: Immigration Politics in a (Dis)Integrating Europe (Gregg, Givens, Jessee, Jacobsohn, Murer, Hooker). Thick values are those values that stem from the way of life of a particular community, while thin values reflect more basic claims to decency that do not depend on a particular tradition. This dissertation argues that analyzing the way in which individuals balance the competing claims of thick and thin values offers the key to understanding public opinion towards immigration in the European Union. I explain the conceptual link between thick values and right-leaning politics and between thin values and left-leaning politics, while differentiating this sense of left and right from alternative usages (particularly economic). I show empirically that in the majority of the EU, thick values cause opposition to immigration (and thin values openness to it). I demonstrate that thick values generally lead to support for the politics of the right, and thin values generally lead to support of the left, but that both the magnitude of the effect of these values and the type of relationship they have with economic ideology varies considerably country-to-country, which has important consequences in terms of party preferences. I provide evidence that thin values lead to increased support for the European Union and higher levels of support for fiscal union and foreign policy coordination. By contextualizing the findings in terms of ongoing European integration and the current economic crisis, the dissertation shows that attention to thick and thin values provides a robust framework for analyzing public opinion in the age of globalization. Previous Education: BA Swarthmore College (Honors Political Science Major, History Minor). MS Statistics University of Texas at Austin. Status: PhD expected Spring 2014. Awards: Center for European Studies Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship (2011-2012), University Continuing Fellowship (2012-2013). Publications: Comparative Sociology, Politics & Gender, Oxford University Press (chapter). Teaching Interests: Comparative Politics, European Politics, Immigration Politics, Quantitative Methods (Least Squares, Maximum Likelihood, and Bayesian Monte Carlo estimation of regression and / or measurement models), Normative Political Theory (particularly modern and contemporary). Email:

Christian Sorace. Comparative Politics / Chinese Politics / Political Theory. Thesis: Beyond Repair: State-Society Relations in the Aftermath of the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake. My research poses the question: how could the Chinese state accomplish the “miracle” of reconstructing Sichuan after the devastating 2008 earthquake in under three years, while failing to win the approval and support from the majority of local disaster residents, in fact, often producing the opposite effect of eroding people’s trust in the state? To explain this apparent paradox, each case chapter examines how various disaster areas within Sichuan were used as experimental laboratories for different models of political economic development. These models were adopted on the basis of factors such as, geographical location, natural resources, degree of post-earthquake damage, pre-earthquake socio-economic levels, intensity of national-level and international attention, as well as local political and social hierarchies. Despite the “good intentions” of the central government, in each of my cases, detailed ethnography presents a different picture of a disaffected and economically precarious local population. My dissertation explains this gap between the state and society based on a collection of ethnographic counter-narratives, interpretive analysis of official state discourse, historical understanding of Chinese Communist Party dynamics, and theorization of how legitimacy is negotiated in a Leninist political order under conditions of “late capitalism.” Education: BA Trinity College (Hartford, CT) Honors Major in Philosophy, Film Studies Minor; MA in the Social Sciences University of Chicago, emphasis on Political Science, PhD University of Texas at Austin expected 2014. Awards: University of Texas Graduate School Continuing Fellowship (2013-2014), Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellow (2012-2013), Ministry of Education Republic of Taiwan Mandarin Enrichment Scholarship (2010-2011), University of Texas Ward Fellowship (2010/2011), Joe R. Long Fellowship (2009). Publications: The China Quarterly, Critical Inquiry, New Political Science, Telos Journal, Article manuscript under review at New Left Review. Teaching Interests: Comparative Politics, Chinese Politics, US-China Relations; Marxism and Post-Marxism. Email:, Website:

Allison White. Comparative Politics / International Relations. Thesis: Explaining Opposition Party Support in Russia: The Role of Electoral Geography and Parties of Power (Moser, Lin, Elkins, Madrid, Trubowitz). My dissertation explores the determinants of dominant party strength and opposition party weakness by focusing on the conditions that either foster electoral support for opposition parties or drive opposition party failure in the proportional-representation tier of Russian parliamentary elections across varying levels of political competitiveness and party systems types. While existing research on party system dynamics in dominant party regimes examines how greater electoral competition, manifest through opposition party success, can pose genuine challenges to the dominant party, my dissertation focuses on the opposite and notably unstudied trajectory: a relatively competitive system evolving toward a hegemonic party regime. In a series of multilevel models, I leverage an original and unique dataset that combines county and region-level data to shed light on how social and economic conditions influence voting patterns for various opposition parties. My dataset includes county-level election results from five parliamentary elections—1995, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011—and sociodemographic data as well as data on regional contextual characteristics such as gross regional product and resource dependence. My multi-method research also draws on in-depth interviews with Russian political party leaders, activists and observers that I conducted during fieldwork during the 2011 Russian parliamentary elections, uncovering nuanced party-system dynamics and subtle political context. Education: Ph.D. Candidate (The University of Texas at Austin, expected Spring 2014); MA, Social Sciences, emphasis on Political Science, (The University of Chicago, 2007); BA, Politics with Honors (Occidental College, 2005). Awards: American Association of University Women, American Fellowship (2013-2014), Graduate Dean's Prestigious Fellowship (2013-2014), Malcolm MacDonald Dissertation Fellowship (2011), U.S. Department of State Title VIII Program for Research and Training in Eastern Europe and Eurasia Fellowship (2011), U.S. Department of Education Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship (2009-2010 and Summer 2009). Publications: Co-authored article manuscript under review at Comparative Political Studies. Teaching Interests: Comparative Politics, Comparative Political Parties and Elections, Comparative Democratization, Varieties of Authoritarianism, the Politics of Russia and Former Communist Countries, Introduction to International Relations, American Foreign Policy, International Conflict, and Introduction to American Government. Email:

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