APCG Lynne Rienner Best Dissertation Award 2023

Winner: Melanie Phillips (UC Berkeley), for her dissertation, “Gendered Gatekeepers: Barriers to Women in Party-Controlled Candidate Selection.”

APCG Lynne Rienner Best Dissertation Award

Committee Members: Alesha Porisky (Northern Illinois University), Rosette Sifa Vuninga (University of Cape Town), Olayinka Joseph Fashagba (Federal University, Lokoja), and Issouf Binate (Universite Alassane Quatarra)

Winner: Melanie Phillips (UC Berkeley), for her dissertation, “Gendered Gatekeepers: Barriers to Women in Party-Controlled Candidate Selection.”

The selection committee for the Lynne Rienner Best Dissertation Award had a very difficult job this year. We had the pleasure of reading an excellent set of dissertations on diverse and important topics, all of which make a significant contribution to the study of African Politics.

However, there was one dissertation that stood out for the selection committee. Drawing on extensive and original fieldwork, it tackled important questions related to women’s political representation in Zambia. On behalf of the APCG, we are pleased to announce that the winner this year is Melanie Phillips (UC Berkeley)for her dissertation, “Gendered Gatekeepers: Barriers to Women in Party-Controlled Candidate Selection.” Phillip’s dissertation exposes the barriers faced by women candidates when pursuing elected office in democratizing countries across Africa, with a focus on Zambia. Her analysis focusses on the complex criteria party leaders use to evaluate candidates for elected positions and draws attention to ways in which political party institutions intersect with gender norms to shape women’s political representation. In studying the candidate preferences of political gatekeepers,Phillips demonstrates that gatekeepers’ preferences are shaped by both the individual and familial attributes of candidates. In doing so, she highlights the important role that familial ties and party loyalty play in shaping women’s access to political power. Phillips further argues that both women and men gatekeepers hold internalized sexist beliefs that shape their candidate evaluations, thus making an important contribution to the literature on candidate selection. Phillips’ research is animated by important questions and offers crucial policy-relevance. Moreover, her novel and informed theoretical frame work promises to invite further research exploring the role of party gatekeepers in shaping women’s representation across other countries on the continent.

The committee was particularly impressed with Phillips’s extensive fieldwork and the original sources of data compiled for her analysis. Phillips conducted over 90 in-depth interviews with women politicians, party gatekeepers, parliamentarians, and activists in Zambia. In addition, Phillips compiled the candidate nomination reports written by the party gatekeepers of Zambia’s two major political parties during the 2016 candidate selection process, which she analyzed to assess whether gatekeepers’ reference to individual and familial attributes varies based on the candidate’s gender. The committee was struck by the originality and rigor of Phillips’ empirical investigation. Her work makes significant theoretical and empirical contributions to the literature on women in politics, and also has significant potential to inform policy on gender equity in developing countries.

Honorable Mention: Alex Dyzenhaus (Cornell University), for his dissertation, “The Price of Redistribution: Local Markets and Agriculture in South Africa’s Land Reform Program.”

The APCG is pleased to extend an honorable mention to Alex Dyzenhaus (Cornell University) for his dissertation, “The Price of Redistribution: Local Markets and Agriculture in South Africa’s Land Reform Program.” Dyzenhaus’ dissertation explores the conditions under which land is redistributed to correct for land inequality in South Africa. He argues that voluntary and compensated contemporary land redistribution in market-based economies is influenced by institutional variation in commodity sectors, specifically the degree of regulation and centralization. He argues that landholders working in sectors with high levels of regulation by the state have greater incentives to sell their land to the state for redistribution, and that sectors with high degrees of centralization are more likely to have the capacity to engage in collective action around state land redistribution programs. Dyzenhaus provides a clear typology based on variations across these two key institutional variations,that lead to different land distribution outcomes: corporatist, low-cost, entrepreneurial, and free market.

Dyzenhaus provides an in-depth analysis of four agricultural sectors in South Africa:sugar, fruit, cattle, and grain. To support his arguments, he draws on descriptive data on land distribution from Free State and KwaZulu Natal provinces in South Africa drawn from government sources, together with original data collected through 100 semi-structured interviews with farmers, agricultural workers, lawyers, and government officials. Dyzenhaus’s work demonstrates a rich engagement with and makes an original contribution to the comparative politics literature on land redistribution and reform in former settler colonies by drawing our attention to how landowners’ incentives and their possibilities for collective action are shaped by salient institutional variations in market-based economies. His focus on South Africa is timely, giving the ongoing grievances related to historical land grabbing, forced removal, and racialized arable land ownership. Dyzenhaus’s research contributes to our understanding of why the post-apartheid state’s promises of land reform and redistribution failed, and can help to advise further land reform policies, not only in South Africa but also in other countries across Africa.

We want to extend a sincere congratulations to both Melanie Phillips and Alex Dyzenhaus for their excellent work!  

Other News & Updates

Explore other APCG activities