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null Letitia Lawson, Ph.D.

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Contact Info

(831) 656-6257
Office Address:
Glasgow Hall, Room 364

Senior Lecturer

Expertise: Political Economy of Development in African Neopatrimonial States


I have been teaching African politics and security, comparative politics and research methods in the National Security Affairs Department since completing my PhD in 1995.  Like the department as a whole, my approach to research and teaching is multi-disciplinary, bringing insights from historical sociology and economics to bear on questions about the nature and evolution of the post-colonial African state.  In addition to my academic pursuits, I work in Africa with leaders in government, civil society and the security forces to elucidate, and advance mutual understanding of, pressing civil-military relations issues.  Most recently these have included election security in the Democratic Republic of Congo, national reconciliation in Mali, and national security planning in Cote d’Ivoire.  These more practical undertakings inform, and are informed by, my research and teaching.  In both theory and practice I attempt to clear a middle path between ‘Afro-optimism’ and ‘Afro-pessimism’ -- both of which suffer from a historicism – by highlighting and explaining internally-driven incremental progress occurring within existing economic, social and institutional constraints in the region.  My recent research and practical engagement have focused on pathways of internally-driven institutional reform.  I am now engaged in a long-term comparative study of post-Cold War economic transformations in East Africa, seeking to map the country-specific interaction of formal and informal institutions with public and private agents in the production of national and sub-regional economic growth and development.

Teaching Interests:

African Government and Politics

African History and Cultures

Government and Security in the Horn of Africa

Unstable States and their Competitors in Africa