About the Seminar: Africa arguably poses some of the most challenging conditions for democratic emergence and survival. According to our existing theories, this is due to a number of economic, social, geographic factors, and institutional legacies of predatory neo-colonial states. Yet three decades of democratic endurance in significant, key cases suggest that the continent has much to teach us about how democracies maintain despite extremely challenging conditions. And the wave of global democratic backsliding has particular contours across the continent that illuminate how democratic institutions are utilized for autocratization, and with what constraints. This research project explores two most-different cases – South Africa and Benin – with highly diverse challenges and yet strikingly similar pathways to establish and maintain democracy against all odds, and the contemporary challenges that are pushing both to autocratic concessions.
About the Speaker: Rachel Beatty Riedl (PhD Princeton University) is the John S. Knight Professor of International Studies, Director of the Einaudi Center for International Studies, and professor in the Department of Government at Cornell University. Her research interests include institutional development in new democracies, local governance and decentralization policy, authoritarian regime legacies, and religion and politics, with a regional focus in Africa. Previously, she was an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research, and Director of the Program of African Studies at Northwestern University. Riedl is co-host of the podcast Ufahamu Africa, featuring weekly episodes of news highlights and interviews about life and politics on the African continent.