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About Me

As a scholar and teacher, I seek to do work that helps us understand the political consequences of marginalization. My research explores how patterns of economic, social, and political marginalization shape democratic processes and institutions across the Americas. Although elections are common throughout the hemisphere, the region’s political systems often fall far short of promoting political and social inclusion despite the presence of basic democratic rules. My scholarship analyzes how limited political representation and persistent economic and social marginalization distort political institutions and processes in formally democratic regimes. I am particularly interested in understanding how the failings of democracy impede ordinary citizens’ efforts to obtain a voice in politics and improve their well-being.

In my work, I have shown how political parties’ failures to provide representation undermine public support for egalitarian policies, weaken partisan ties, and threaten the maintenance of party systems and democracy. I have further demonstrated how marginalization of historically excluded groups, like women, indigenous, and Afro-descendant Latin Americans, undermines trust in the state, weakens democratic values, and jeopardizes democratic processes.

Triángulos, Melissa Dupont (Peru), 2017 (c) Texture Photo
Triángulos, Melissa Dupont (Peru), 2017 (c) Texture Photo

As a teacher and mentor, I aim to bring students into the work of understanding and critiquing the practice of politics. I see teaching as an inherently dynamic process in which I challenge students to think analytically and ask critical questions about political power, and they challenge me to do the same. I love the vibrant ideas that emerge as students grapple with the dynamics of power and strive to come to terms with the ways political systems and processes may be tools for reinforcing or dismantling hierarchies.

Multiple markers of distinction underscore the significance of my contributions. My research on party failure has appeared in leading outlets in political science and Latin American studies. My book Bankrupt Representation and Party System Collapse, which argues that representational failures cause party systems to collapse and create openings for democratically ambivalent actors, received two book honors from sections of the Latin American Studies Association. My gender inequality research has been published in the American Political Science Review and received a best paper award. My ongoing work on the damaging consequences of economic and ethnoracial inequalities has been funded by the Russell Sage Foundation and has produced a book manuscript and multiple articles in highly visible outlets, including three in the Journal of Politics. I give invited talks at numerous leading universities across the United States and Latin America, I share my findings with policymakers via appearances at think tanks and government agencies across the region, and my work has been featured in public interest blogs and news stories.

I am currently a Professor of Political Science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville – the best city in the South. I am a proud Pennsylvanian and since my time as a Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, a wistful one-time New Yorker. I am a life-long Tar Heel, having earned my MA and PhD at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. I am a fan of good food and good art and mom to a wise elven princess. I tweet about politics, inequality, higher education, and other things that amuse me at @prof_jmorgan.