Journal Papers (Peer Reviewed)

Demerew, K. “Realist Perspectives on Nile Politics: Conflict and Cooperation Between Ethiopia and Egypt.” African Security 15, no. 3 (2022): 213-236. DOI: 10.1080/19392206.2022.2081763.

Demerew, K, “Elites, Rents, and Transitions: A New Institutionalist View of Ethiopia’s Political Development,” Africa Today 68, no. 3 (2022): 65-86. DOI: 10.2979/africatoday.68.3.04

Demerew, K. “From Red Sea to the Nile: Water, Power, and Politics in Northeast Africa.” Third World Quarterly 42, no. 12 (2021): 2883-2901. DOI: 10.1080/01436597.2021.1977622.

Working Papers

Demerew, K. “Contractualism, Governmentality, and Sovereignty: Reconfiguring the African State.” International Journal of Political Theory. (In Review) 

Demerew, K. “Can Institutions Explain Mass Violence? Amhara 'Settler' Discourse and Ethiopia’s Ethnic Federalism." To be submitted to Comparative Political Studies. (First draft complete)

Demerew, K., and Partaw, M. “Institutional Logic of Fragile States: From South Sudan to Afghanistan .” To be submitted to The Journal of the Middle East and Africa. (First draft complete)

Works In Progress

Demerew, K. “Development Politics and the Nile: Pathways to Cooperation and Conflict.” In Steven Roach (ed.), Nile Politics: Cooperative Peace, Hegemony, and the New Riparian Reality. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar. (Solicited chapter for book under contract – draft in progress)

Demerew, K. Violence and Development: Political Elites, Institutions, and Discourse in African States. (Book manuscript – early stages)

Research Statement

I study the Political Economy of Development as well as Conflict and Security, with a regional focus on Northeast Africa, pursuing a cohesive, two-pronged research program reflecting my interest in these two areas. To date, my research has resulted in three publications in the journals Third World Quarterly, African Security, and Africa Today.

My primary research agenda is at the intersection of institutions and political development; specifically, I study how governing elites use rents to manage contending elites who can threaten violence, and how these rents-based interactions give rise to a given political order. In my research, I consider how inter-elite institutional interactions effect varying levels of political development. I developed this research through my dissertation entitled, “Violence, Rents, and Elites: Institutional Determinants of Political Order in Ethiopia, Rwanda, and South Sudan.” This project applies the new institutionalism to comparatively assess the impact of institutional constraints and elite preferences on political development in three African states, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and South Sudan. I conducted field research for my primary case, Ethiopia, through in-depth elite interviews with insiders and experts, as well as analysis of open-source archives. For my comparative cases, I analyze secondary sources through an analytic narratives methodology, identifying institutional constraints and incentives that drive elite choices and preferences, particularly during times of transition.

In my dissertation, I argue that violent capabilities of contending elite groups determine the contours of patronage-rents relations and that institutional incentives determine the direction of political transitions I conclude that transitions from a rents-based order towards greater standardization of elite privileges and specialization have resulted in a more mature political order in Rwanda, while ethnicization of political rents and lack of elite cohesion have impeded development in Ethiopia and South Sudan. I have expanded this research agenda into a post-doctoral research project accounting for the institutional effects of discourse. I plan to reuse the breadth of coded data gleaned through my structured elite interviews, in order to identify institutional and discursive patterns, and triangulating this data through content analysis from media and government discourse. In doing so, I will apply an expanded new institutionalist framework that incorporates discursive institutionalism. The culmination of this project will be an article as well as a book manuscript, tentatively titled Violence, Rents, and Institutions: Political Development in Africa. I will be developing a book proposal to this effect in Fall 2023.

In tandem with my primary research agenda, I have developed a related, interdisciplinary secondary research agenda accounting for exogenous constraints on state agency and institutional outcomes such as foreign policy, statecraft, and development policy in African states. This theory-driven secondary research agenda primarily engages with two competing features of the international system, namely, anarchy and globalization. Relying on contestations over the Nile River and the Red Sea in Northeast Africa, I have produced novel case-based accounts of interstate rivalry and resource competition; specifically, I identify domestic and ideational variables that mediate the effects of anarchy, producing unexpected foreign policy orientations in the international system. I am currently co-editing a book under contract on Nile Politics.

Moving forward, I plan to move this interdisciplinary research agenda forward by also accounting for exogenous constraints posed by the international economic system, particularly, globalization, examining theoretical and practical implications on development in African states. Here, I plan to examine conceptual gaps between positive sovereignty, governance, and governmentality on the one hand, and contractualism, transactions based on free agency, on the other hand. More importantly, I plan to move beyond critical conceptions of governmentality to highlight its productive elements, while also illustrating how the potential positive effects of governmentality are undermined by the structural realities of globalization.

In the initial phase of this research, I will develop a liberal theory of contractualism, or exchange based on free agency to account for both political and economic transactions in relation to agency in the African context. Relying on case-based accounts of blockchain as a development technology, I will illustrate contractualism’s centrality to the achievement of positive sovereignty and governmentality in African states, as well as the practical limitations to achieving this model of contractualist governance. I plan to publish my initial findings in a mainstream journal. Long term, the objective of this project is to not only illustrate the gaps between achieving classical liberal ideals of contractualism in African states and the structural constraints of the neoliberal globalization, but also to identify responsive solutions for reorienting development policy. To this end, I plan to apply the framework that I develop through the initial phase of this research to empirical cases based on participatory action research. Specifically, through field research in Rwanda and Kenya, I plan to illustrate microeconomic outcomes of emerging development technology such as ICT (information and communication technology) and blockchain on impoverished communities. Rwanda and Kenya are ideal cases for this type of participatory action research due to the relatively more specialized economic climate in these two countries.

My objective with this participatory action research will be to study how small-scale entrepreneurs and landowners in impoverished societies conceptualize, interact with, interpret, and utilize development technology, and how these micro-level decisions interact with broader institutional constraints. The culmination of this research will be a second book, tentatively titled, Africa, Globalization, and the Liberal International Order. It is my hope that this project will not only orient my research toward more policy-relevant ends, but also bring my secondary research agenda on exogenous constraints together with my primary research agenda on endogenous institutional constraints in African states. After bringing together my two-pronged research program in this manner, I hope to be able to expand my broad interest in institutions, incentives, and constraints to consider policy-relevant problems in areas such as higher education and civil society, both in the United States and abroad. In pursuing these projects, I am seeking funding from a number of organizations that provide funding to research on classical liberal ideals and policy, including the Institute for Humane Studies and the Templeton Foundation.