News from the Department of Political Science Fall 2018

Visiting Faculty for Fall Semester 2018

Professor Sebastian Bitar, Karl Loewenstein Fellow

Professor Sebastian Bitar is joining Amherst College from the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Colombia.  Sebastian is the author of US Military Bases, Quasi-bases, and Domestic Politics in Latin America (Palgrave) and The first steps to human rights in Colombia (Universidad de los Andes press, in Spanish).  He is also co-editor of "New approaches for the study of Colombia's international relations".  Sebastian completed his PhD in International Relations from American University in Washington, DC.  He is teaching POSC 326 Foreign Policy Analysis. 

Professor Chipo Dendere, Consortium for Faculty Diversity Fellow & Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science in African Politics

Professor Chipo Dendere is joining Amherst College from Gettysburg College and before that Georgia State University where she completed her Ph.D. in 2015.  Dr. Dendere’s primary research is on the survival of liberation parties and democratization in Africa.  Her Ph.D. thesis was on the impact of emigration on the survival of ZANU PF arguing that voter exit sustains incumbent regimes and weakens opposition parties.  Her recent research includes studying the impact of social media on democratization in Africa as well as the role of money in politics.  She is teaching POSC 233 Introduction to Contemporary African Politics and POSC 350 Comparative Race, Ethnic, Migration Politics. 

Professor Constantine Pleshakov, Visiting Assistant Professor

Professor Constantine Pleshakov will be teaching POSC 380 Kremlin Rising:  Russia's Foreign Policy in 21st Century.

Professor Donald Robinson, Visiting Professor

Professor Robinson will be teaching POSC 304 Seminar on Parties and Elections.

New Political Science Courses Offered for Fall 2018

POSC 135, Justice, Professor Bumiller

POSC 326, Foreign Policy Analysis, Professor Bitar

POSC 330, The Politics of Protest, Professor Ratigan

POSC 350, Comparative Race, Ethnic, Migration Politics, Professor Dendere

International Relations Certificate Courses in Political Science Offered for Fall 2018

POSC 170, Building Nation-States, Markets, and Democracy in Europe, Professor Paul

POSC 208, Power and Politics in Contemporary China, Professor Ratigan

POSC 214, Geopolitics and American Foreign Policy, Professors Levin and Machala

POSC 231, The Political Economy of Petro States:  Venezuela Compared, Professor Corrales

POSC 233, Introduction to Contemporary African Politics, Professor Dendere

POSC 321, Populism in the Era of Global Capitalism, Professors Basu and Machala

POSC 326 Foreign Policy Analysis, Professor Bitar

POSC 330, The Politics of Protest, Professor Ratigan

POSC 350 Race, Ethnicity, and Identity Politics in Africa, Professor Dendere

POSC 370, Cyberpolitics, Professor Paul

POSC 380 Kremlin Rising:  Russia's Foreign Policy in the 21st Century, Professor Pleshakov


Amrita Basu continues to engage in research on women's activism and Hindu nationalism.  Her publications this past year include:  "Narendra Modi and India's Populist Democracy," Indian Politics and Policy, (Volume One, Number One), March 2018; "More than Meets the Eye:  Sub-Rosa Violence in Hindu Nationalist India," in Karen Barkey, Sudipto Kaviraj and Vatsal Naresh eds., Negotiating Democracy and Religious Pluralism, (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming, 2018) and "Whither Democracy, Secularism and Minority Rights in India?"  The Review of Faith & International Affairs (forthcoming, 2018).

She participated in several workshops and conferences, at the India International Center, New Delhi, Rutgers, Tufts University, the University of Connecticut at Storrs, Simipson College, the Annual Conference on South Asi in Madison, Wisconsin, and the Association of Asian Studies annual meetings in Washington, DC.  She also served on a panel organized by our wonderful Asian Students' Associaton on South Asian Feminisms.

Javier Corrales's most recent book, Fixing Democracy:  Why Constitutional Change Often Fails to Enhance Democracy in Latin America (Oxford University Press 2018), examines the connection between constitutional change and presidential powers.  At times, presidential democracies decide to change their constitutions, sometimes expanding presidential powers, other times, curtailing them.  This book offers a theory to explain these changes.  It argues that power asymmetry between the incumbent president and the opposition, more so than actors' ideologies or the country's economic conditions, account for these changes.  It also provides evidence that expanding presidential powers may hurt democracy.  The evidence is drawn from 10 cases of constituent assemblies and more than 40 cases of constitutional reform, all from Latin America.  The book reflects years of research and teaching on democracy at Amherst and benefited from the research assistance of many Amherst students.

Professor Mattiacci has been awarded a Stanton Nuclear Security Course Development grant. The grant recognizes ten scholars worldwide that showed excellence in teaching and provides them support to design a brand new course on nuclear weapons. The grant will support Professor Mattiacci’s research this Fall on the pedagogy of teaching about nuclear security, focusing in particular on leveraging universal design techniques. This research will lead to a new course that Professor Mattiacci will teach during the 2019 Spring Semester, titled  “Nuclear Structures and Political Leaders.“ More info about the class is available here: <>

Professors Mattiacci and Obert published their latest research in a lead article on Perspective on Politics, a peer-reviewed Academic journal of the American Political Science Association. The article  challenges the conventional wisdom on the origins of vigilantes organizations in pre-Civil War United States, demonstrating that these organization did not emerge as the response to an absent state. Instead, these organizations formed as a flexible response to the individuals’ need for civic identity in environments of social uncertainty and political change. Engaging with a form of organized violence whose legacy is still strong today in American politics, the article opens important paths for future research on the interaction between public and private forms of violence The article, titled  “Keeping Vigil: The Emergence of Vigilance Committees in Pre-Civil War America", is available here <>

Jonathan Obert has a new book coming out this fall entitled The Six-Shooter State:  Public and Private Violence in American Politics, Cambridge University Press.  He, along with Austin Sarat and Andrew Poe, have a new edited volume entitled The Lives of Guns, Oxford University Press, which will be available this fall.