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null Jessica Piombo, Ph.D.

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Contact Info

(831) 656-2831
Office Address:
Glasgow Hall, Room 374

Associate Professor

Expertise: Sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa, African Security, US Engagement in Africa


Jessica Piombo is an Associate Professor in the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), where she teaches courses on African politics, U.S. Foreign Policy, comparative politics, and ethnic politics and conflicts. Piombo has been a visiting scholar at the University of the Western Cape, the University of Cape Town, George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and Stanford University’s Center for African Studies. Her teaching and research specializes on political transitions and post-conflict governance; statebuilding and peacebuilding; mechanisms to manage ethnic conflict; African security; and U.S. foreign policy in sub-Saharan Africa. Piombo joined NPS in 2003 after completing her Ph.D. at the Department of Political Science of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Piombo is the author of Institutions, Ethnicity and Political Mobilization in South Africa (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); editor of The U.S. Military in Africa: Enhancing Security and Development? (First Forum Press, a division of Lynne Rienner, 2015); Interim Governments: Institutional Bridges to Peace and Democracy? (with Karen Guttieri, USIP Press, 2007); and editor of Electoral Politics in South Africa: Assessing the First Democratic Decade (with Lia Nijzink, Palgrave MacMillan, 2005). She has authored numerous articles, reports and book chapters on security, counter-terrorism and democratization in Africa. Piombo has conducted extensive research in South Africa (primary country of expertise), has monitored elections in South Africa and Nigeria, and conducted field research in Cambodia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Laos, Rwanda and Uganda.

Her most recent research project, Peacebuilding through Service Delivery, examines the impact of international assistance on post-conflict statebuilding and peacebuilding. Funded by the Minerva Initiative, information can be found at This multi-year project is in close collaboration with Dr. Naazneen Barma and Naomi Levy (Santa Clara University), and involves intensive field research and cross-national data gathering.


Teaching Interests:

Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflict in the Developing World

US Foreign Policy Towards Sub-Saharan Africa

Contemporary Issues in African Politics and Security

Understanding African Politics through Film and Fiction


Recent Publications:

Jessica Piombo & Pierre Englebert (2022). “The War on Terror in Context: Domestic Dimensions of Ethiopia and Kenya’s Policies Towards Somalia.” Third World Quarterly, DOI: 10.1080/01436597.2022.2057292

“Civil-Military Relations in the Horn of Africa,” in Understanding Complex Military Operations: A Case Study Approach, ed. Karen Guttieri, Volker Franke and Melanne A. Civic. New Jersey: Routledge, 2014.

“Perspective: US Africa Policy: Rhetoric Versus Reality.” Current HistoryMay 2012. 

“Civil-Military Relations in an Emerging Democracy: South Africa,” in The Handbook of Civil-Military Relations, ed. Thomas Bruneau and Florina Christiana Matei. New Jersey: Routledge Press, 2012.

“Oil Rents and Politics in Africa,” in The Handbook of Oil Politics, ed Robert Looney. New Jersey: Routledge Press, 2012.

"Peacemaking in Burundi: Conflict Resolution versus Conflict Management Strategies,"African Security 3, no. 4 (2010): 239-272.