Kelebogile Zvobgo is an Assistant Professor of Government at William & Mary and founder and director of the International Justice Lab. Previously, she was W&M's inaugural Pre-doctoral Fellow for Academic Diversity, hosted at the Global Research Institute. She earned her Ph.D. in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Southern California in 2021. At USC, she was Provost's Fellow in the Social Sciences, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, and a recipient of the 2021 USC Ph.D. Achievement Award. She received her B.A. (with honors) in International Relations and French Language & Literature from Pomona College in 2014.
Dr. Zvobgo's research broadly engages questions in human rights, transitional justice, and international law and courts. Her work has been published in a number of peer-reviewed journals, including the International Studies Quarterly and Journal of Human Rights, and popular press outlets like Foreign Policy and The Washington Post. Her work has been recognized in the United States and abroad, winning multiple awards, including the award for best paper from the Human Rights Section of the International Studies Association and the Human Rights Section of the American Political Science Association. In 2021, she received the Lawrence S. Finkelstein Prize from the International Organization Section of the International Studies Association.
Much of Zvobgo's past and ongoing research concerns quasi-judicial and judicial bodies that have proliferated around the globe over the past half-century to address serious violations of human rights law and humanitarian law. Thus far, her work has centered on domestic truth commissions and international criminal tribunals, especially the International Criminal Court.
Her current book project, Governing Truth: NGOs and the Politics of Transitional Justice, produces a new model of transnational advocacy and advocacy networks, the burden sharing model, to explain why some governments but not others adopt transitional justice (TJ) institutions, design them to succeed, and follow up on them with particular policies. Her central argument is that domestic and international civil society actors, who compose a global TJ network, alternate advocacy leadership at different stages: domestic groups are critical for TJ adoption, international experts are vital for strong TJ design, and domestic groups are essential for TJ delivery and follow-up. With a focus on truth commissions, the project demonstrates that governments are more likely to: create commissions where domestic groups are stronger; afford commissions key investigative powers when they are advised by international experts; and implement specific commission recommendations (e.g., reparations) championed by domestic groups.
Zvobgo's book project presents evidence from statistical analyses of novel data from the Varieties of Truth Commissions. The datasets capture the universe of commissions, their mandates and powers, their recommendations, and levels of implementation across recommendations. The project also presents case studies and probes causal pathways using evidence from fieldwork, including interviews, focus groups, and archival research. Study participants include government officials, former commission leaders, representatives of international organizations and international non-governmental organizations, and human rights advocates in Argentina, Canada, Guatemala, Kenya, and Sierra Leone. Additional fieldwork in South Africa and Timor-Leste is forthcoming.
Dr. Zvobgo will be advertising at least one open position in the International Justice Lab for continuing students in the 2022–23 academic year. Interested students should subscribe to the Global Research Institute digest, where the position will be advertised in summer 2022.