APCG-African Affairs Best Graduate Student Paper Award 2023

Winner: Sean Paul Ashley (Harvard University), for his paper, “Born Strong: Wartime Institutions and the Durability of Rebel Regimes.”

Sean Paul Ashley is the winner of the APCG-African Affairs Best Graduate Student Paper Award. Eligible papers for this award must be nominated by a member of the APCG, written by a graduate student, and presented at the previous year’s APSA, ASA, ISA, or MPSA annual meetings.

This year’s committee was formed by Hadiza Kere Abdulrahman, University of Lincoln; Abhit Bhandari, Temple University; Dikhru Yagboyaju, University of Ibadan, and Anibal Perez-Linan, University of Notre Dame (serving as chair). The committee evaluated the papers based on three criteria: the theoretical contribution, the originality of the empirical work (qualitative or quantitative), and the study's methodological rigor.

The committee unanimously selected “Born Strong: Wartime Institutions and the Durability of Rebel Regimes,” by Sean Paul Ashley (Harvard University), as winner for this year. This paper was presented at the 2022 APSA conference, and it was nominated by Vladimir Chlouba (University of Richmond).Ashley analyzes the stability of political regimes resulting from the success of rebel groups in a civil war. The paper draws from the premise that rebel victors inherit a precarious post-victory security situation. It makes a theoretical contribution in using the victors’ governance institutions during wartime to explain post-war outcomes.

Ashley argues that rebel victors with a more extensive portfolio of wartime institutions establish more durable postwar regimes. Wartime institutions facilitate post-war state building in the form of military centralization, military integration, administrative control over society, and administrative competencies. The use of these concepts to explain post-conflict rebel regime durability means that the paper’s framework can be used in future for similar analyses.

The study relies on a rich empirical base, using field interviews to inform a comparison of the Milton Obote II and Yoweri Museveni regimes in Uganda. Ashely also introduces an original cross-national dataset, the Victorious Insurgent Characteristics that Organize Regimes(VICTOR). This dataset captures information on the presence of 8wartime institutions led by rebel victors in all civil wars from 1945 through 2014.

The analysis is methodologically rigorous in its use of a mixed method approach, combining multiple sources of data—qualitative and quantitative—to advance its claims. The paper’s ability to go from general quantitative evidence (using logistic regression and duration models) to the specific comparative evidence for Uganda gives it clarity and added rigor.

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