Greetings, and welcome to my page. I am an Assistant Professor at the Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver and Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. I received my B.A. from Kalamazoo College and my Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego. I teach courses on international relations and comparative politics. I am director of the Project of Environment, Food and Conflict (ENFOCO) at the Institute for Theory and Practice of International Relations and Co-Director of the GIS Center at Lake Victoria, Uganda, and the Social Conflict in Africa Database (www.scaddata.org), a data project cataloging social conflict in Africa. Prior to arriving in Denver, I was Assistant Professor of Political Science at the College of William & Mary and the University of North Texas.
I am a data-driven, theoretically-informed researcher with interests in contentious politics, the environment and conflict, and food security. My choice of topics is motivated by policy-relevant problems and questions; consequently, my work and my choice of collaborators extend beyond political science to biology, ecology, and economics. My analytic toolkit is derived primarily from bargaining theory, rational choice institutionalism, and statistical analysis, though my current projects call for a more mixed-methods, fieldwork-based approach.
I apply these tools to five related areas of inquiry:
- Civil Conflict, Contentious Politics and International Security: Civil conflicts, and the governance vacuums to which they can lead, poses serious challenges to international security. Comparatively less well understood, however, are patterns of protest and conflict, often large in scope and international implications, which do not fit neatly into the intra- or interstate conflict paradigm.
- State Capacity: Peace and effective governance are necessary preconditions for human and economic development, yet the vast disparities across countries on these measures suggest large gaps in the capacity of states to generate the revenue necessary to provide order and basic social services. I cast the emergence of capable state institutions as the outcome of bargaining between societal actors rulers, and argue that geography has exerted a significant impact on this bargain by affecting the nature of the resource base over which bargaining takes place.
- Environmental Politics: Though environmental scholars have been predicting widespread conflict over natural resources for decades, evidence for environmental conflict is scant. I argue that the paucity of evidence is due to a failure to recognize that environmental stressors, particularly those related to climate change, are mediated by existing economic, political, and social institutions, as well as a focus on slow-moving trends in environmental data, rather than short-term fluctuations in environmental triggers, such as rainfall variability.
- Food Security: The biggest threats to food security in the near-term are not dwindling natural resources and free trade, but rather poverty, political barriers to market access, and the entrance of speculative capital into food and input commodity markets. A robust trading system and sensible regulation of commodity trading are the best remedy for current concerns over food security. Moreover, in light of forecast changes in global patterns of agricultural productivity, a robust trading system is the only conceivable way that a world undergoing climate change will be able to feed itself.
- Global Markets and Transnational Actors: Transnational rebels are a significant threat to peace and stability in both the international and domestic political arena. Comparatively less is known about the effects that transnational advocacy networks have on patterns of contentious politics, and state responses to contentious actions, in the developing world.
These basic questions motivate my research. I have interests also in food security, the fiscal contract theory of the state, and human rights. I have consulted for the Department of Defense, the FAO, the Human Security Report Project, and the World Food Programme, and am an affiliate of the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at UT Austin. My research has been supported by the Department of Defense Minerva Initiative and the National Science Foundation.