Elizabeth Nugent Receives the 2022 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. 

Elizabeth Nugent studies the politics and political psychology of authoritarianism and religion in the Middle East. She is the author of After Repression: How Polarization Derails Democratic Transition, published by Princeton University Press (2020), which was awarded the 2022 Robert A. Dahl Award, as well as an honorable mention for the 2022 Gregory Luebbert Book Award, for the best book in the field of comparative politics, both from the American Political Science Association. Her other research has been published in the American Journal of Political Science, Annual Review of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and World Politics. She is currently writing a book on the political psychology of exile following the Arab Spring uprisings and will be based in Berlin during AY 2022-2023 for this project.  

Dr. Nugent holds a PhD and MA in politics from Princeton University as well as a BA in Arabic and an MA in Arab Studies, both from Georgetown University. She was previously an assistant professor of political science at Yale University, a postdoctoral research fellow with the Middle East Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and a Fulbright Fellow in Cairo, Egypt.

Citation from the Award Committee:  

Elizabeth Nugent’s After Repression: How Polarization Derails Democratic Transition is an outstanding work of comparative politics that that addresses a question of great intellectual and practical importance: Why did the Arab Spring revolution hold in Tunisia but fail in Egypt?  Nugent demonstrates that blanket repression of opposition groups in Tunisia and the more targeted repression carried out in Egypt set the stage for opposition cooperation in the former and opposition polarization in the latter.  Blanket repression encouraged bridging political identities, while targeted repression intensified in-group identities and exacerbated polarization.  Cooperation among oppositionists, in turn, set the stage for a more robust democratization in Tunisia, while opposition polarization undermined Egypt’s democratic experiment.  The author’s explanation includes a brilliantly formulated account of the affective dimensions of polarization and cooperation, showing how authoritarian regimes’ survival strategies shape the sociological context in which subsequent efforts to democratize take place.  Empirical investigation is based on political life histories of over one hundred former opposition activists, which the author wrote based on semi-structured interviews she conducted between 2012 and 2018.  Analyses include a lab experiment that tests the psychological mechanism underlying the causal argument.  After Repression brings the Middle East into the study of democratization and furnishes insights that promise to inform our thinking about democratic experiments around the world.

APSA thanks the committee members for their service: Dr. Steve Fish (chair) of the University of California, Berkeley, and Dr. Nikolay V. Marinov of the University of Houston.

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