My research agenda is driven by a fascination with how civil society and the state work together to tackle complex public problems related to social exclusion.

The Politics behind New Institutions for Citizen Participation

In this research project, I examine the origins, construction, and impact of new state institutions that incorporate citizen participation into policymaking at the local level.

Building Participatory Institutions in Latin America: Reform Coalitions and Institutional Change. 2019.  New York: Cambridge University Press.

“The Origins of Strong Institutional Design: Policy Reform and Participatory Institutions in Brazil’s Health Sector.” 2019. Comparative Politics 51(2): 275-294.

“Society-Driven Participatory Institutions: Lessons from Colombia’s Planning Councils.” 2019. Latin American Politics and Society 61(2): 93-114.

“The Politics of Participation in Latin America: New Actors and Institutions.” 2019. Introductory essay for special issue of Latin American Politics and Society 61(2): 1-20. (With Jessica Rich and Alfred Montero)

“How Do Legal Strategies Advance Accountability? Evaluating Mechanisms in Colombia.” 2020. Journal of Development Studies 56(8): 1437-1454. (With Veronica Herrera)

“Delegate Democracy Revisited: Colombia’s Surprising Resilience.” 2016. Journal of Democracy 27(3): 139-147.

“Brazil’s Participatory Infrastructure: Opportunities and Limitations for Inclusion.” 2021. In The Inclusionary Turn in Latin American Democracies, eds. Diana Kapiszewski, Steven Levitsky, and Deborah Yashar. New York: Cambridge University Press. (With Jessica Rich)

Urban Security and Social-Citizenship Rights of Marginalized Groups

In an ongoing research project, I examine the politics behind state raids to advance security in Latin American city centers, and their impacts on the rights of street-connected youth and people experiencing homelessness.

“The Power of Human Rights Frames in Urban Security: Lessons from Bogotá.” Forthcoming. Comparative Politics.

  • Winner, 2020 LASA Defense, Public Security and Democracy Best Paper by a Junior Section Member Award
  • Winner, 2020 LASA Subnational Politics and Society Best Paper Award

“Urban Securitization in the Name of Human Rights.” Available by request.

“Democratic Participation in Policing and the Reproduction of Asymmetric Citizenship: The Contradictions of Participatory Security in São Paulo, Brazil.” (With Yanilda González) Available by request.

Mobilizing Communities to Combat the Sexual Exploitation of Children 

Whereas my first book project examined how social-rights reforms enable the construction of participatory institutions, my next book explores how and why new social rights emerge in the first place. Mobilizing Coalitions against Child Sexual Exploitation in Latin America asks: How and why do cities institute effective, rights-based policies to protect vulnerable children from exploitation in the sex trade?  I compare the construction of national frameworks in Colombia and Mexico, and their implementation across different cities in each country to analyze the emergence of surprising alliances between state and societal actors, which include NGOs, the private sector, religious organizations, and sex worker movements to combat the sexual exploitation of children. I highlight the ways that these broad coalitions can work together to disrupt the societal norms that condone sexual exploitation, prevent exploitation before it happens, and bring currently exploited children to safety.  

Mobilizing Coalitions against Child Sexual Exploitation in Latin America will make major theoretical and empirical contributions as the first study of sexual exploitation within comparative politics. While scholars from international relations examined transnational sex trafficking networks, we know very little about the domestic political dynamics involved in reducing sexual exploitation.  Moreover, this study offers important lessons for scholars and policy practitioners focused on a range of complex public problems, such as disaster management, homelessness, and violence against women.  Like sexual exploitation of children, these public problems extend beyond the boundaries of traditional policy sectors and require collaboration between a wide array of state and societal actors.  This book will explore the institutional factors that enable cooperation among such diverse actors, the role of leadership in building coalitions, and strategies to advance complex processes of social change.

The Grassroots Right in Latin America

Along with Amy Erica Smith, I am co-editing a special issue of Latin American Politics and Society that will be dedicated to understanding the “grassroots right” in Latin America: the diverse citizens, civil society associations, and religious groups supporting right-wing issues, politicians, and identities. Their causes range from restricting abortion, affirmative action, and LGBT rights, to expanding gun rights and violently repressing crime. This special issue turns the lens to the grassroots right in both public opinion and civil society. It will analyze the public-opinion foundations, ideological schema, and diverse mobilizational strategies undergirding Latin America’s right turn. 

Qualitative Methods

My papers on urban security and human rights employ Annotation for Transparent Inquiry, an NSF-sponsored approach to enhance data transparency and offer deeper insights into the logic of interpretation and causal analysis through annotation. I have written a short article that describes the methodological contributions of ATI, based on these experiences.

“Bridging Positivist and Interpretative Approaches through Annotation for Transparent Inquiry.” Forthcoming.  PS: Political Science and Politics.