Ashley E. Nickels Receives the 2020 Robert A. Dahl Award

The Robert A. Dahl Award is presented annually by the American Political Science Association (APSA) to honor an untenured scholar who has produced scholarship of the highest quality on the subject of democracy.

Ashley E. Nickels, Ph.D., was recently promoted to associate professor of political science at Kent State University.  Her work focuses on issues of urban politics, governance, and community using a social equity lens.  She is the author of the award-winning book, Power, Participation, and Protest in Flint, Michigan, as well as numerous journal articles and book chapters.  Dr. Nickels is the co-PI of the Growing Democracy Project and co-host of the Growing Democracy Podcast.  Dr. Nickels received her Ph.D. in Public Affairs, with a specialization in community development, from Rutgers-Camden.

Citation from the Award Committee:

The Committee awards the Robert A. Dahl Award to Ashley Nickels for her book, Power, Participation and Protest in Flint, Michigan: Unpacking the Policy Paradox of Municipal Takeovers.  This book exemplifies the model of Dahl’s inquiry into local politics to illuminate how democracy does or does not function to serve its citizens.  Nickels dives into the emergency takeover and water crisis in Flint, Michigan, to demonstrate how technical and managerial arms of the government use moments of emergency to avoid accountability and diminish democracy.  This book speaks powerfully to contemporary global politics of emergency health management and the broader role of autocratic technical solutions in place of democratic responsiveness.  It could not be more salient and timely, as we face national and international questions about the role of the administrative and coercive state and their relation to citizens’ safety, security, and well-being.

This deeply empirical account of municipal takeover in Flint, Michigan demonstrates how managerial governance can be used to advance elite interests.  But Nickels also points to the role of community activists, and the role that participation and protest can play in demanding quality governance and reform.   In identifying the space between public administration and politics, Nickels shows the importance of monitoring administration in the name of democracy and speaking to power to fulfill its promise.

APSA thanks the committee members for their service: Rachel Beatty Riedl (chair), Cornell University; Agustina Giraudy, American University; Dr. Imke Harbers, University of Amsterdam; and Eva Sørensen, Roskilde Universitet.

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