I study how collective action can lead to institutional change even when the conditions are stacked against change, particularly in the Global South.
Rebel Bureaucracies: Corruption Networks, Organizational Change, and Effective Government Agencies in Nigeria Corruption is one of the biggest global problems. In my dissertation I explore how effective bureaucracies emerge in states where corruption is systemic. Based on more than 130 interviews, original survey data, participant observation, and archival documents, I examine the process of endogenous change in three government agencies in Nigeria that today stand out for their integrity and public service delivery (drug administration, taxation, election management). Why and how have these agencies managed to overcome corruption and provide the public services they are mandated to provide unlike other government agencies under similar conditions? Using a pragmatist framework, I find that executive directors were outsiders to patrimonial administrative networks and successfully forged creative compromises between performance expectations and existing organizational logics. To protect these agencies against government capture, directors also strategically mobilized and cooperated with civil society, transnational professional networks, and international organizations. In a gradual process of staff alignment and driven by a growing reputation for integrity and service delivery, the organizations with almost all of its former staff eventually switched from one extreme to another.
Vigilante Movements in the Global South Weak states in the Global South tend to have 'peripheral spaces' where criminal gangs rule in the absence of or in collusion with the state. In this project I use a social movement framework to analyze the emergence of vigilante groups in these spaces as 'vigilante movements.' The analysis of two vigilante movements in peripheral spaces in Nigeria and Peru shows that they emerge in ways that differ from what standard social movement theory suggests. The systematic study of these and other types of movements in weak-state contexts can lead to a better understanding of global social movement diversity and dynamics.
Accidental Regime Suicide: A Reinvestigation of the German Democratic Republic's Collapse The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 is commonly seen as the result of widespread mobilization and protest: the 'peaceful revolution.' Based on a detailed analysis of archival evidence and interviews with former GDR officials who were involved in the process, I argue that this understanding is incomplete. While protesters put the regime under pressure, the actual fall of the Wall on that day was the unintended result of a combination of the clandestine actions of internal reformers, a communication mishap, and the temporary breakdown of bureaucratic coordination: it was an accidental regime suicide.