By Rebecca Latourell
Global Research Institute, Assistant Director of Programs
With autocracies on the rise worldwide and human rights abuses following suit, there is no better time to study these areas. The recent hiring of Fiona Shen-Bayh and Sharan Grewal as Assistant Professors in the Department of Government has enhanced the Global Research Institute’s work in this area, as has the arrival of Kelebogile (Kelly) Zvobgo, Pre-Doctoral Fellow for Academic Diversity at the Institute. Upon completion of her dissertation, Kelly will assume a tenure-track position in Government as well. In all, these scholars will enable William & Mary to expand dramatically its teaching and research on autocracy, democracy, and human rights.
“Having Fiona, Sharan, and Kelly join our ranks has everyone in Government excited,” said Paul Manna, the Hyman Professor and chair of the Department of Government. “And as soon as our students start to get to know these amazing scholars and teachers, they will be excited, too.”
Professor Fiona Shen-Bayh joins William & Mary from the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies at the University of Michigan, where she was a Postdoctoral Fellow from 2018-2019. Previously, she earned her PhD in political science from the University of California-Berkeley. Her research focuses on the role that law and courts play in strategies of autocratic survival, and her teaching will contribute to offerings in Government and for students pursuing Data Science. This year she will teach courses on data science and law in comparative perspective and also a course on autocracies. Professor Shen-Bayh’s work has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Institute of International Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Her dissertation received Honorable Mention for the Lynne Rienner Best Dissertation Award from the African Politics Conference Group. Her article “Strategies of Repression: Judicial and Extrajudicial Methods of Autocratic Survival” was named one of World Politics’ most influential articles of 2018 and received the Best Article Award from the Comparative Democratization Section of the American Political Science Association.
Professor Sharan Grewal’s research examines democratization, security studies, and political Islam in the Arab world, especially Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria. Broadly speaking, his work examines why militaries and religious movements at times pose a threat to democracy, while in other times support democratization. He received a PhD in Politics from Princeton University and his work has been published in top journals including the American Journal of Political Science, Comparative Politics, International Studies Quarterly, International Organization, and the Journal of Conflict Resolution as well as in mainstream media outlets including Foreign Policy and The Washington Post. Professor Grewal is also a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, and has been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Al-Jazeera, and The Times, among others. His courses this year will include an advanced seminar on political Islam and an intermediate course on political systems of the Middle East and North Africa.
As the Global Research Institute Pre-Doctoral Fellow for Academic Diversity, Kelly Zvobgo will work with student research assistants to support her dissertation, Governing Truth: NGOs, Accountability Politics, and Truth Commissions, in which she develops and tests a theory of how transnational civil society actors guide the creation, design, and effectiveness of truth commissions following political violence. The project is part of a broader agenda on quasi-judicial bodies that have proliferated across the globe to fill gaps left by domestic and international law and courts. Zvobgo’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and is published in the International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Human Rights, and Journal of Political Science Education. She has won multiple awards, including the 2019 Best Paper in Human Rights from the International Studies Association and the 2019 Best Paper in Human Rights from the American Political Science Association. Beginning in fall 2021, Zvobgo will join the Government Department as an Assistant Professor.
“We are excited to welcome these three promising scholars to the Institute and W&M,” said Sue Peterson, Reves Professor of Government and International Relations and Co-Director of the Global Research Institute. “They already are offering new and meaningful research opportunities for our students and diversifying and expanding our teaching and research in human rights, civil-military relations, judicial politics, and other areas.”