I am especially interested in how communities act under conditions of extreme threat: how they survive, how they live, and how they mobilize in response to violence. These topics build on a variety of political science, sociological, and historical literatures about the conditions and dynamics of violence and contention. They raise important descriptive and causal questions like:

  • What explains local variations in violence against civilians during episodes of large-scale repression or one-sided violence?
  • What strategies do civilians use to respond to instances of large-scale repression or one-sided violence? How do these strategies interact with the local, national, and international dynamics of these violent episodes?
  • Why do some civilian populations undertake collective action in response to mass violence, while others do not?

Below is a list of published and in-progress works that make up my ongoing research agenda on these topics. If you’re working on these issues—as a scholar, policymaker, practitioner, or activist—and are interested in collaborating, please reach out at

Academic publications

“The Black Freedom Movement and the Politics of the Anti-Genocide Norm in the United States, 1951 – 1967,” forthcoming in Genocide Studies and Prevention

This article explores the political uses of the anti-genocide norm by black freedom activists in the United States between 1951, when the Civil Rights Congress petitioned the United Nations with evidence of genocide against black Americans, and 1967, when the topic of genocide returned to mainstream public debate with the beginning of William Proxmire’s campaign for US ratification of the Convention. Using public speeches and pamphlets of the US black freedom movement, and private documentation by movement activists, this paper demonstrates how black activists used the nascent anti-genocide norm to (1) critique the relationship between the US government’s role in the postwar international order amid ongoing mass violence against black Americans, and (2) express solidarity with global social movements against colonialism and Cold War-era imperialism. I conclude by arguing that the black freedom movement’s mobilization around the anti-genocide norm has important historical, historiographical, and methodological implications for genocide research.

Policy publications

(with Otto Saki and Lawrence Woocher) “Scenarios of Repression: Preventing Mass Atrocities in Zimbabwe,” US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC, November 2016 (pdf)

(with Richard Gowan and Lawrence Woocher) “Preventing Mass Atrocities: An Essential Agenda for the Next UN Secretary General,” US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC, September 2016 (pdf)

Working papers

“Evaluating Counterfactual US Policy Action in Syria, 2011-16: A Review of Empirical Evidence from Related Cases,” US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC, August 2017 (pdf)

Work in progress

(with Kelebogile Zvobgo) “Co-Opting Truth: Explaining Transitional Justice in Authoritarian Regimes”

Why do authoritarian regimes adopt transitional justice mechanisms such as truth commissions? Scholarship implies that these mechanisms are established during moments of political transformation and transition. However, nearly one-third of truth commissions have been created by autocratic regimes. We argue that autocrats deploy truth commissions as a means of minimal compliance with the now-global norm of accountability for political violence. Drawing on the autocratic resilience literature, we theorize that autocrats use truth commissions to co-opt the truth, whether they are investigating themselves or their political rivals. We expect that self-investigating truth commissions will have limited mandates, while truth commissions investigating previous regimes will have broad mandates. We additionally expect that the reports issued by self-investigating truth commissions will diverge from external accounts of violence and abuses, while commissions investigating previous regimes will converge with external accounts. To evaluate our hypotheses, we draw on a novel dataset of autocratic truth commissions established between 1970 and 2018.

“Explaining subnational variations in pogrom violence: The case of the Kristallnacht pogrom”

Why do pogroms result in violence in some localities, but not in others? I argue that revealed pre-violence support for anti-minority groups explains spatial variations in anti-civilian attacks during a pogrom episode. Revealed political support for anti-minority groups helps pogrom organizers overcome significant social obstacles to the mass collective violence that distinguishes pogroms from other forms of violence against civilians. To evaluate this hypothesis, I introduce a new geocoded dataset of Jewish houses of worship prior to the Kristallnacht (“Night of Broken Glass”) pogrom against Germany’s Jewish population from 9 – 10 November 1938, based on archival information gathered by a Jewish memorialization project. I use these data to show the effects of Nazi Party vote share during the Weimar Republic’s November 1932 parliamentary elections on spatial variations in pogrom violence. The paper demonstrates the importance of collective political identities in explaining subnational variations in pogrom violence.