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APCG-African Affairs Best Graduate Student Paper Award

The editors of African Affairs are pleased to announce the journal's sponsorship of the African Politics Conference Group's annual award for the best graduate student paper on African politics. For more information on how to nominate a paper visit the APCG Website.

Best Graduate Student Paper Award 2014-15

Committee Members: 
Megan Hershey (chair), Whitworth University 
George Bob-Milliar, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology 
Matthew Mitchell, St. Paul University

Best Graduate Student Paper Winner 
Martha Wilfahrt. “Local logics of public goods distribution in decentralized West Africa.” Presented at the 2015 Midwest Political Science Association Conference.

The committee considered nine papers, all of which demonstrated strong and interesting work. After careful consideration, we agreed unanimously on Ms. Wilfahrt’s paper, “Local logics of public goods distribution in decentralized West Africa,” as the most deserving of this award. The paper is theoretically insightful, empirically rich, methodologically sound, and clearly articulated. It argues that existing social networks – traced from the pre-colonial period – help to determine how public goods are distributed by local governments. The paper offers a sophisticated analysis of the political legacies of historical population movements in rural Africa and uses an impressive collection of original survey and interview data from Senegal to trace the impacts of historical state building on the micro-politics of public goods provision. Ms. Wilfahrt provides an important contribution by developing a new framework for explaining local variation in development outcomes. She has written an agenda-setting piece for the study of public goods provision and her findings are bound to be of interest to scholars of public goods provision, institutions, decentralization, and the politics of belonging. 

Best Graduate Student Paper Honorable Mention 
Rachel Sigman. “Which Jobs for Which Boys? Party Finance and Patronage Patterns in African Democracies.” Presented at the 2015 Midwest Political Science Association Conference.

The committee was especially impressed with one other paper and would like to recognize it with an honorable mention. Ms. Sigman’s paper, “Which Jobs for Which Boys? Party Finance and Patronage Patterns in African Democracies,” challenges our assumptions about the practice of patronage across the African continent. Her excellent research design sets up a thoughtful and well-articulated comparison of patronage patterns in Benin and Ghana’s state institutions. She thoroughly analyzes a range of innovative and original data to reveal a puzzling variation in the use of patronage across these democracies. Her argument that patronage is used as part of a complex method of controlling economic resources in order to finance political parties reveals a nuanced and important approach that depends our understanding of the intricacies of patronage systems. 

Best Graduate Student Paper Award 2013-2014

Committee Members:

Susanna Wing, Haverford College (Chair) 
Fodei Batty, Quinnipiac University 
James Hentz, Virginia Military Institute

Best Graduate Student Paper Winner
Milli Lake, Ph.D. (2014), University of Washington “Organized Hypocrisy: External Actors and Building the Rule of Law in Fragile States.” Presented at 2013 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association 

The committee agreed unanimously on Lake's paper as the most deserving of this award. She grapples with the conundrum that while the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) is often described as an archetypal collapsed state, in recent years some of the world’s most progressive judicial decisions against perpetrators of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) have been passed in the DRC. How is it that even in a state characterized by extreme fragility certain public goods prevail? Through analysis of military and civilian judicial cases, interviews with stakeholders and victims of SGBV, she argues that the very instability of local governance structures in DRC has opened the doors for domestic and transnational actors to exert direct influence on the judicial decisions. Her work is innovative, relies on extensive fieldwork under difficult conditions and has important policy implications for an understudied topic. 

Best Graduate Student Paper Award 2012-2013

Committee Members:

Claire Adida, University of California, San Diego
Robin Turner, Butler University 
Daniel Young, Georgia State University

Best Graduate Student Paper Winner
Amanda Robinson. “Nationalism and Inter-Ethnic Trust: Evidence from an African Border Region”

Amanda Robinson applies insights from the literature on nation-building in Europe to challenge the prevalent pessimistic view that ethnic diversity and the salience of ethnic divisions in African countries pose an insurmountable challenge to trust-building. Drawing from the broad comparative politics and social psychology literatures, Robinson develops a carefully thought-out research design and carries out a successful lab-in-the-field experiment. This empirical strategy enables her to measure and show the extent to which contextual priming, such as a national flag cue, increases cross-ethnic trust among participants who started out as weak national identifiers. In other words, a simple visual cue can erase the co-ethnic trust premium that characterizes people who tend to identify in ethnic rather than national terms. These effects are behavioral, and captured via experimental games that carefully replicate many real-world situations, such as market interactions. This paper’s contributions are theoretical as much as they are empirical, and its results bring much needed nuance to the academic discussion on the implications of ethnic diversity in Africa.

Best Graduate Student Paper Honorable Mention 
Manuela Travaglianti. “Violent Out-Bidding: Violence against Co-Ethnics in Burundi’s 2010 Elections”

Manuela Travaglianti pushes our understanding of ethnic and electoral violence with an impressive analysis of electoral violence in Burundi’s 2010 elections. Travaglianti’s work highlights the logic of electoral violence by investigating the conditions under which intra-ethnic, rather than inter-ethnic, violence may prevail. Travalianti argues that intra-ethnic violence is, under certain conditions, one way to mobilize the base, and thus contributes to the growing literature on electoral violence as one tool among many in the candidate’s toolkit. The original dataset she has put together to test her argument’s observable implications is an impressive collection of events that help us better understand the logic of electoral violence.

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