I study inequality in the political community and the relationship between formal and informal normative frameworks (such as law and morality, social trust and interpersonal trust, and citizenship and belonging, among others). Namely, I am interested in how ordinary citizens behave towards one another when the law and the institutions of the state change. Do weak institutional frameworks lead to sparse social interactions in the public arena? Or do the latter make up for the shortcomings of the former? Does institutional trust foster social trust? These are the kind of questions that interest me and that I approach by rigorously combining debates of political theory and comparative politics, and qualitative empirical analysis.

 

Dissertation

 My dissertation explores the sociopolitical effects of the preeminence of citizenship and formal inclusion in the definition of what a democracy is, bringing together debates of political theory and comparative politics. Does formal inclusion lead to belonging? I argue that the strengthening of formal inclusion is both necessary, yet also counterproductive to political belonging. The dissertation combines a theoretical argument with an empirically-driven discussion of the shortcomings of formal inclusion. The empirical discussion revolves around a comparison between civic republicanism and belonging in Mexico and France, and the liberal and multicultural models of the US and Canada.

I am writing my dissertation under the guidance of Bernard Harcourt and Dan Slater (co-chairs), John P. McCormick, Tianna Paschel, and Lisa Wedeen.

 

Working Papers

 

  • Entrepreneurs of Trust under the Shadow of the State: A Case Study of Improbable Trust in Mexico City - under review.

This paper explores the case of informal car parkers in Mexico City, to whom drivers regularly entrust their cars without guarantees of getting them back, to advance two arguments about trust. First, the literature on social trust expects that strengthening formal institutions that foster social trust will facilitate exchanges between strangers. I show that the weakness of those institutions can also foster trust between strangers, proposing a distinction between institutionalized and informal social trust: the latter emerges when the former flails. Second, disrupting the assumption that group similarity aids trusting exchanges, I show that trust can flourish because of deep class cleavages.

For the most recent draft, click here.

 

  • The Meek and the Mighty: Two Models of Domination - submitted for review.

This paper is about narratives that support domination. I argue that there are two major narratives that typically support domination and oppression: a narrative articulated around fear and a narrative articulated around pity. To illustrate my point, I draw examples from the history of American Indians and African Americans, both of whom suffer from structural oppression in contemporary America. And yet, today, the former are often viewed as requiring help and assistance, while the latter are construed as being prone to violence and thus eliciting fear. These narratives of domination—fear and pity—are not only theoretically different, but they justify the mobilization of dissimilar resources. I suggest that the narrative of pity will prevail when the object group does not present a threat to the power of the dominant group, while the narrative of fear predominates when the dominated group is perceived as presenting such a challenge.

For the most recent draft, click here.

 

  • Short-Circuiting Democratization: Bureaucratic Logics and Spurious Criminal Charges in Mexico (with Milena Ang) - under review.

Scholars have long paid attention to the persistence of judicial wrongdoing, understood as strategic manipulation of the courts. Yet the phenomena of manufacturing criminal charges that are blatantly false and even outright ludicrous remains understudied. We analyze the use of false criminal charges in Mexico, where absurd accusations remain common even after democratization. While those incarcerated under false charges under authoritarianism are often members of the political opposition, it is mostly socioeconomically vulnerable people who are falsely incarcerated under democracy.  We argue that democratization contributed to a faulty bureaucratic logic focused on efficiency made possible by the instrumentalization of a vulnerable population. Under democracy, politicians can leverage botched criminal cases for electoral gain by harnessing public outrage when convenient.

Please contact me for the most recent draft of this paper.

 

  • Vulnerability and Due Process in Modern Mexico (with Milena Ang)

Growing violence and institutional inefficiency in Mexico have contributed to an increase in the carceral population and a national discussion on the failings of the punitive arm of the state. The institutional reform frenzy that followed has produced tensions and contradictions. And yet, those multiple reforms have done little to alleviate the widespread, but understudied, violations to the due process and human rights of suspects and prisoners. The lack of scholarly work on the topic has left crucial questions unaddressed: Are all potential suspects at risk of violation of due process? Are some more vulnerable than others? We use a novel survey of imprisoned populations to explore whether administrative reforms help alleviate the vulnerabilities of certain populations. Public defenders offices that invest resources in hiring criminal lawyers not only decrease violations to due process, but also reduce disparities produced by traditional vulnerabilities.

Please contact me for the most recent draft of this paper.