Prof. Nic Cheeseman

Prof. Nic Cheeseman
Associate Professor in African Politics

I joined the African Studies Centre in 2007-08 and my time is split equally between the Department of Politics and International Relations and African Studies. My training is in political science and my research focuses on democracy in Africa. I also co-edit the journal African Affairs and run a website,

For the African Studies MSc I convene the first term of the Core Course on Themes in African History and Social Sciences, and offer an option on Democracy in Africa. I also lecture on comparative method and the use of surveys in Africa, and supervise students working on contemporary politics. I was awarded a Teaching Excellence Award in 2008. In 2013-14 I was the Director of the African Studies Centre, but spent 2014-2015 on research leave.

My work falls into the field of comparative politics with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa and processes of democratization. More specifically, I look at a range of questions such as whether populism is an effective strategy of political mobilization in Africa, how paying tax changes citizens’ attitudes towards democracy and corruption, and the conditions under which ruling parties lose power.

In 2008, my doctoral thesis, ‘The Rise and Fall of Civil Authoritarianism in Africa’, won the Arthur McDougall Dissertation Prize of the Political Studies Association of the UK for the best dissertation on elections, electoral systems or representation. Since then I have published a number of articles and book chapters, and two co-edited collections: Our Turn To Eat (2010), which covers the politics of Kenya since independence, and The Handbook of African Politics (2013). My first monograph, Democracy in Africa: Successes, Failures and the Struggle for Political Reform was published in March 2015 by Cambridge University Press. A second monograph, How to Rig An Election, is currently under contract with Yale.

I have just returned from research leave as part of a four year project in which I looked at the dynamics of executive-legislative relations in Africa, Latin America and the former Soviet Union with two Oxford colleagues, Paul Chaisty and Tim Power. This research was funded by a grant of £700,000 by the Economic and Social Research Council (Grant Reference: RES-062-23-2892). The first article from the project, entitled “Rethinking the Presidentialism Debate: Conceptualizing Coalitional Politics in Cross-regional perspective” won the GIGA prize for the best paper published in Comparative Area Studies, 2013-4. A co-authored book with Paul and Tim based on the project’s findings is currently being finalised and is under contract at Oxford University Press.

I also hold two other ESRC grants and am currently engaged in a major £640,000 research project on the impact of elections in Africa with Gabrielle Lynch of Warwick University and Justin Willis of Durham University (ES/L002345/1). This research uses a mixed methods approach with surveys, archive research, interviews, and fieldwork in Kenya, Ghana and Uganda. I am also part of an international team of researchers investigating the relationship between Media, Conflict and Democratization, supported by the funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research. For more information see the Department of Politics and International Relations website.

In January 2016, I became the founding Editor of the Oxford Dictionary of African Politics and the founding Editor in Chief of the Oxford Encyclopaedia for African Politics, both published by Oxford University Press. These projects are designed to “mainstream” research on Africa and to make it available to a much wider audience. Both the Dictionary and the Encyclopaedia will be put together in 2016 & 2017, and should be published in 2018.

When not teaching or researching I spend much of my time explaining the implications of my work to policy makers, including the Cabinet Office, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Department for International Development of the UK government, the Instituto Rio Branco of the Brazilian government, the Lagos State Government, the Pan African Parliament, and the World Bank. I am a member of the advisory board of the UNICEF Chair on Communication Research (Africa) and an advisor to, and writer for, Kofi Annan’s African Progress Panel.

Since the summer of 2011 I have been Joint Editor of African Affairs, the No. 1 journal in both African Studies and all of Area Studies. Most recently, I have been writing a bi-weekly column for the Sunday Nation, a Kenyan newspaper. These pieces and many more blogs can be found on a website I founded,, which is dedicated to creating an online community of people that are interested in, and care about, the state of democracy in Africa. Please join us!

Contact Information


Phone: +44 (0)1865 613 904

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