Paul Thissen

Fellowship Recipient
Department: Political Science

Research interests: politics and institutions

Country Expertise: Chad, Cameroon
Language Expertise: Arabic
Fellowship Year(s): 2016
Project/Theme Title: Legacy Institutions and Political Order in Weak States
Abstracts: This project investigates variation in the ability of non-state institutions to produce political order in weak states. In some places, chieftaincies, clans, sultanates, or kingdoms perform many of the functions of a state: enforcing legal codes, collecting taxes, guaranteeing property rights, and ensuring security. The leaders of some such institutions demonstrate an impressive command over their followers. Yet in other places, residents feel free to disobey their leaders with impunity. My project asks: Why are leaders of some non-state institutions able to command compliance from their followers while others are not? To address this question, my project employs ethnographic techniques, data collection from historical manuscript records, and a survey experiment in Pperipheral regions of Chad, which ranked sixth on the 2015 Fragile States Index.
Fellowship Year(s): 2015
Project/Theme Title: Order and violence on the edges of weak states: A study of institutional legacies
Abstracts: Why does conflict emerge in some peripheral regions of weak states while otherwise similar areas in the same states remain peaceful? Most existing theories investigate material resources, ethnic divisions, or state institutions to explain such variation. Yet these explanations fail to explain some instances of peace or violence, I argue, because they ignore non-state political institutions like the Sultanate of Ouaddai, located in the Chadian town where I propose to conduct research. My project analyzes how differences among such institutions shape patterns of violence. Some such institutions collect taxes, enforce legal codes, ensure security, and offer social services -- independent of the state. They also bargain with the state over resources and rights. My prior research suggests that peace and conflict are outcomes of these negotiations. Through interviews and archival research in eastern Chad, I will investigate this bargaining and when it fails, leading to violence.

Fellowship: FLAS - Academic Year
Fellowship Year(s): 2013
Language: Arabic