Directory Page Title

Philip Roessler

Assistant Professor

Office: Tyler Hall 334
Email: [[proessler]]
Office Phone: 757-221-3045


Professor Roessler’s research and teaching offers new perspectives on conflict, state-building, and development, with a focus on the region of sub-Saharan Africa, where he has conducted extensive field research. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the British Academy, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the Institute of International Education and United States Agency for International Development and been published in World Politics, Journal of Politics, the American Journal of Political Science, Comparative Politics and other outlets.  

Currently Roessler is finishing two books. The first—Ethnic Politics and State Power in Africa: Escaping the Coup-Civil War Trap—offers a novel theoretical and empirical account of the strategic logic of war and peace in sub-Saharan Africa, drawing on extensive field research in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo and complemented by extensive quantitative analysis using the Ethnic Power Relations dataset. It builds on Roessler’s 2011 World Politics article, "The Enemy Within: Personal Rule, Coups and Civil War in Africa," which won the Gregory Luebbert Award from the American Political Science Association for the best article in comparative politics for 2010 or 2011.  

The second book—Why Comrades Go to War: Post-Liberation Politics and the Outbreak of Africa’s Deadliest Conflict—is co-authored with Harry Verhoeven of Georgetown University. Drawing on extensive field research in Congo, Rwanda, Angola, Uganda, Ethiopia and Eritrea, it offers a theoretically-informed analysis of the breakdown of the pan-Africanist coalition that overthrew Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997 and the logic of why its breakdown led to Africa’s Great War in August 1998, the most devastating conflict since World War II.

Beyond his research on the coup-civil war trap and armed conflict, Roessler’s additional ongoing research projects address other big questions in the study of development and state building, including: 1.) the effects of partition on political attitudes, migration and identity in Sudan; 2.) a field experiment on the impact of the mobile phone revolution on women’s empowerment in Tanzania; 3.) the impact of Chinese aid and investment projects on state-building in Africa; and 4.) a comparative historical analysis of colonial state-building, spatial inequality and development trajectories in Africa.    

Recent Papers and Publications

“The Societal Origins of Powersharing: Ethnic Geography, Threat Capabilities and Horizontal Accountability in Weak States” (with Dave Ohls of American University)

“Intergroup Violence and Political Attitudes: Evidence from a Dividing Sudan,” (with Bernd Beber and Alex Scaco), Journal of Politics (2014).

 “Why South Sudan Has Exploded in Violence,” The Monkey Cage blog, Washington Post online, December 24, 2013.