Mai Hassan Receive the 2021 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. 

Mai Hassan is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan. Her first book — Regime Threats and State Solutions: Bureaucratic Loyalty and Embeddedness in Kenya — examines the politicization of the public sector for social control in Kenya. Her on-going research focuses on popular mobilization under autocratic repression through analysis of Sudan’s 2018-19 popular uprising. Professor Hassan’s research has been published by numerous outlets, including the American Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, and the Journal of Politics. She earned her PhD in Government from Harvard University. 

Citation from the Award Committee:  

The 2021 Robert A. Dahl Award goes to Mai Hassan for her book, Regime Threats and State Solutions, published with Cambridge University Press (2020). Regime Threats provides a rigorous analysis of the multiple political logics informing how the bureaucracy is recruited and deployed in ethnically divided states. 

Focusing on the case of Kenya, Hassan has collected and analyzed a wealth of data, from archival sources to interviews, to develop the book’s core argument. Regime Threats adds nuance to existing theories of how patronage is deployed in young democracies. Examining the different patterns of personnel politics under both authoritarian and democratic regimes in Kenya, the book shows sometimes patronage is used to build support among co-ethnics, but at other times, to buy off the potential opposition of non-co-ethnic rivals.  

Hassan is careful not to claim too much, but the reader of Regime Threats comes away with a nuanced understanding of how the bureaucratic state is recruited as a tool of political competition and survival that will surely gain broad application in the years to come. Regime Threats is a stellar achievement. It will be of great interest to scholars and students of comparative politics, public administration, and political economy.  

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