William & Mary

Welcome to Government Department Prof. Fiona Shen-Bayh


The William & Mary Government Department asks you to join us in welcoming Assistant Professor Fiona Shen-Bayh to the College. Professor Shen-Bayh earned her PhD and MA in Political Science from the University of California, Berkley and received a BA in Economics from Vassar College. Professor Shen-Bayh also serves as an affiliated research at the University of Bergen.

Her research examines on autocratic politics through a judicial lens, focusing on the role of law and the courts as they relate to strategies for autocratic survival. Professor Shen-Bayh’s current book manuscript, Autocratic Courts in Africa, which investigates how, when, and why autocrats use courts to repress their political adversaries.

Her fascination with this manipulation of democratic institutions stems in part from what she views as a misunderstanding of actual purpose of court systems in autocratic countries. Instead of approaching analyses of these institutions as if they were intended to promote justice, she contends that we ought to recognize these were in fact designed for repression. She added that she’s seen such systems impact her own family, increasing the personal saliency of such research.

The unique balance of the liberal arts concentration with an emphasis on research here at the College is what drew her to William & Mary in the first place, she says.

This Fall, Professor Shen-Bayh is teaching “Legal Data in the Comparative Context” and “How to Be an Autocrat.” Both courses draw on her areas of statistical expertise and extensive understanding of autocratic political systems. She said writing her own lectures and dictating course material has been so an incredibly fun experience so far and is excited for what the rest of the semester holds.

A link to Professor Shen-Bayh’s personal website can be found here.