I study comparative politics with a regional focus on Latin America. My research interests include political violence and its legacies, state formation, institutional change, human rights, and international anti-corruption efforts.
My book, Undermining the State from Within: The Institutional Legacies of Civil War in Central America (forthcoming with Cambridge University Press in Spring 2023), examines how counterinsurgent structures and practices reshape state institutions and assesses the longer-term effects of such changes on state development. Through unique archival data and elite interviews in Guatemala and Nicaragua, I trace the wartime emergence of predatory, undermining rules that contravene the core extractive, coercive, and regulatory functions of the state. This book contributes a novel approach to explaining the relationship between civil war and state formation through attention to shifting institutional logics amid armed conflict.
2022. "Guatemala 2021: Reconsolidating Impunity and Reversing Democracy." Revista de Ciencia Política 42(2): 309-322.
2022. “Rewriting the Rules of Land Reform: The Institutional Legacies of War in Nicaragua.” Small Wars & Insurgencies. First View.
2022. "'To Make Men Believe Their Rebellion Just': Thomas Hobbes and the Study of Civil War" (with Dan Kapust). Polity 54(2): 359-384.
2021. "How Predatory Informal Rules Outlast State Reform: Evidence from Post-Authoritarian Guatemala." Latin American Politics and Society 63(1): 49-71.
2020. "Guatemala: The Military in Politics" (with Anita Isaacs). Oxford Encyclopedia of the Military in Politics.
2020. "Conjuring the Criminal State: Rethinking the 'State-Idea' in Post-Conflict Reconstruction and International State-Building." Journal of Global Security Studies. 6(2).
2020. "Civil War, Institutional Change, and the Criminalization of the State: Evidence from Guatemala." Studies in Comparative International Development 55(3): 381-401.
2018. "What Drives Violence Against Civilians in Civil War: Evidence from Guatemala's Conflict Archives" (with Scott Straus). Journal of Peace Research 55(2): 222-235.
2018. "Rethinking Comparison in Political Science" (with Erica S. Simmons and Nick Rush Smith). Qualitative and Multi-Method Research 16(1): 1-7.
2022. "Nicaragua: Populist Performance and Authoritarian Practice during COVID-19" (with Kai M. Thaler). Populists and the Pandemic: How Populists Around the World Responded to COVID-19. Eds. Nils Ringe and Lucio Rennó. London: Routledge Studies in Extremism and Democracy. 184-195.
2018. "From Reconciliation to the Rule of Law: The Shifting Landscape of International Transitional Justice Assistance to Guatemala" (with Anita Isaacs). Transitional Justice, International Assistance, and Civil Society: Missed Connections. Eds. Paige Arthur and Christalla Yakinthou. New York: Cambridge University Press. 27-51.
Working Papers (copies available upon request):
“A Durable, but Impoverished Peace: Evaluating 25 Years of Peacebuilding in Guatemala” (chapter for edited volume on Guatemalan politics, under contract with Rowman & Littlefield)
"International Anti-Corruption Commissions in Latin America: Pathways of Emergence"
"Overcoming the Crisis of Research Design: Rethinking Comparison in the Field"
Select Commentary and Analysis:
"The Biden Administration has pledged significant aid to Central America. But where should it go and how should it get there?" Voces, Inter-American Dialogue, April 22, 2021.
"Guatemala will elect a new president on Sunday. Here are three things to know," Monkey Cage, August 9, 2019.
"A Victory for Guatemala's Pacto de Corruptos," NACLA Report on the Americas, June 21, 2019.
"Guatemala's Anti-Corruption Struggle Teeters on the Edge," NACLA Report on the Americas 51(2): 200-205.
"Why are so many children migrating to the U.S. from Central America in the first place?" Monkey Cage, June 29, 2018.
"Is Russia interfering in Guatemala's anti-corruption commission? The real story might surprise you," Monkey Cage, May 9, 2018.
"Guatemala's president tried to expel the U.N. commissioner who announced he was under investigation," Monkey Cage, September 6, 2017.
Photo of statues of FSLN founders Tomás Borge (left) and Carlos Fonseca (right), Central Plaza, Matagalpa, Nicaragua, 20 December 2016 © Rachel Schwartz