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Martha Wilfahrt

Assistant Professor
510 642 5633
748 Social Sciences Building
Office Hours
Tuesdays 2:30-4:30
Personal Statement

Martha Wilfahrt studies African Politics and Political Economy of Development with a focus on historical legacies, redistributive politics and state-society relations. Her current research interests revolve around two themes. The first focuses on historical legacies in contemporary African politics, with a particular interest in the persistence of social norms and the role of concept formation in the ‘historical renaissance.’ Work from this first area of focus has been published in The Quarterly Journal of Political ScienceWorld Development and World Politics, as well as Cambridge University Press, which released her first book, Precolonial Legacies in Postcolonial Politics, in 2021. A second, on-going stream of research studies the politics of field research in the Global South.

Research Interests
African Politics, Political Economy of Development, Redistributive Politics
PhD Cornell University

Precolonial Legacies in Postcolonial Politics: Representation and Redistribution in Decentralized West Africa. 2021. Cambridge University Press (Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics)

  • Allan Sharlin Memorial Book Award, Social Science History Association (2022)
  • Honorable Mention, Giovanni Sartori Best Book Award, Qualitative and Multi-Method Research Section (2022)



Judge, Landlord, Broker, Watchman: Assessing Variation in Chiefly Duties in the Ghana-Togo Borderlands (with Natalie Letsa) Journal of Modern African Studies 61, n. 3 (2023), pp. 439-462.

Enumerator Experiences in Survey Data Collection in Sub-Saharan Africa (with Justine Davis) Comparative Political Studies 0(0) (2023).

Demanding Recognition: Citizen Perspectives on Clientelism in Africa (with Kathleen Klaus & Jeffrey Paller) African Affairs 122, n. 487 (2023), pp. 185-203.

Citizen Response to Local Service Provision: Emerging Democratic Accountability in Decentralized West Africa? Electoral Studies 79 (2022).

Improving Open-Source Information on African Politics, One Student at a Time (with Kristin Michelitch). PS: Political Science and Politics vol. 52, n. 2 (2021), pp. 450-455.

The Mechanisms of Direct and Indirect Rule: Colonialism and Economic Development in Africa (with Natalie Letsa). Quarterly Journal of Political Science vol. 15 n. 4 (2020), pp. 539-577.

Precolonial Legacies and the Contemporary Politics of Public Goods Provision in Decentralized West Africa. World Politics vol. 70 n. 2 (2018), pp. 239-74.

The Politics of Local Government Performance: Elite Cohesion and Cross-Village Constraints in Decentralized Senegal. World Development vol. 103 (2018), pp. 149-61.

Popular Support for Democracy in Autocratic Regimes: A Micro-Level Analysis of Preferences (with Natalie Letsa). Comparative Politics vol. 50, n. 2 (2018), pp. 231-273.