APCG Best Graduate Student Paper 2022
Committee Members: John F. McCauley (University of Maryland, Chair), J. Andrew Harris (New York University - Abu Dhabi), Rachel Sigman (Naval Postgraduate School), Aminu Dramani (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology)
Winner: Vladimir Chlouba (University of Notre Dame), for his paper entitled “The Politics of Respect: Early State Inheritance and Traditional Governance.”
The committee is pleased to recognize Vladimir Chlouba as the winner of the 2022 APCG Best Graduate Student Paper Award for his paper entitled “The Politics of Respect: Early State Inheritance and Traditional Governance.” Chlouba’s paper impressed the committee for its theoretical insights, its creative and rigorous empirical approach, and the richness that it adds to the study of informal institutions in Africa. In detailing the role of habituated norms of compliance in traditional leaders’ performance, Chlouba demonstrates the importance of looking beyond immediate political strategies to consider the central place of historical and contextual factors in the study of institutional outcomes.
Chlouba develops a novel theory to explain the place of informal institutions in contemporary African communities. He argues that communities subject to early state inheritances developed norms of compliance that continue to give importance to traditional leaders and institutions, whereas communities that lacked early statehood did not develop the norms that allow for collective action problems to be easily resolved through customary local governance. To test these claims, he connects census and survey data to the spatial extent of 49 traditional administrations in Namibia, along with the precolonial histories of individual chiefdoms. To address shortcomings in existing data, he constructed new maps through extensive research and conducted careful on-the-ground research. Focusing in particular on the institution of marriage under traditional custom, the paper demonstrates a durable difference in traditional governance between polities with different historical experiences.
Chlouba’s paper underscores for scholars of Africa and indeed other parts of the world that subnational variation in historical experiences can have lasting and important consequences. The committee sees this work as a critical contribution to the study of institutions and collective action in Africa, and we congratulate Vladimir on such an important, ambitious, and meticulously executed study.
The Committee would like to recognize Catlan Reardon as the recipient of the Honorable Mention citation for the 2022 APCG Best Graduate Student Paper Award, for her paper entitled “The Ties That Bind or Break: Local Leaders, Dispute Arbitration, and Violence in Nigeria.” The committee was deeply impressed with all the elements of the paper: its theoretical contribution, its well-conceived research design, and its compelling findings.
Reardon advances a theory of peace and violence that hinges on local leaders’ credibility as peacemakers and enforcers. Using a randomized control trial and surveys with local leaders and citizens in 88 communities in Nigeria, she demonstrates that cross-group ties between leaders foster better citizen compliance, greater satisfaction with arbitration, and ultimately fewer violent events. She also shows that alternative leaders such as youth and civil society actors generate effective inter-group mediation, whereas leaders who possess extreme in-group ties can be detrimental to dispute arbitration.
Reardon’s research involved extensive, painstaking work in Nigeria, which resulted in a study with important implications for both theory and practice: it adds to our understanding of the value of bridging capital, and it offers a roadmap for societies that face persistent communal tensions. The Committee found her paper to be a model for political scientists, and one that contributes richly to the literature on peace and violence in Africa.