About Me

I am an Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department at the State University of New York at Cortland (United States).

I hold a PhD in Politics from the University of California, Santa Cruz. I specialize in the political economy of state service provision and social protection across territory in Latin America.

My research addresses a core question in political science: What does it take for governments in emerging economies to improve the living conditions of the poor? Focusing on Latin America, I study how weak institutions may be harnessed—despite their weakness—to attend to basic human needs. I emphasize the importance of non-state actors, from business firms to community-based organizations, and their ability to build alliances inside the state apparatus for making the state work.

My research agenda involves two ongoing book projects: one on the subnational politics of social protection in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Colombia and Brazil (read more here) and another one—based on my doctoral dissertation—on service provision in subnational economies impacted by oil, agribusiness, and hydroelectric megaprojects (read more here).

I am coauthor of the Democratic Decentralization Programming Handbook, published by USAID’s Center for Democracy, Human Rights and Governance, with Kent Eaton, Sarah Shair-Rosenfield, and Cynthia Clapp-Wincek.

I also study the relationship between natural resources and armed conflict. I coedited the book Different Resources, Different Conflicts? The Subnational Political Economy of Armed Conflict and Crime in Colombia (Ediciones Uniandes, 2020), with Angelika Rettberg, Ralf J. Leiteritz, and Carlo Nasi, and coauthored the book’s chapter on oil with Angelika Rettberg (“A Crude Conflict: Oil, Armed Conflict and Crime in Colombia”).

I have also examined the local dimensions of peacebuilding and transitional justice in Colombia. The findings appear in the book Guerras, paces y vidas entrelazadas: coexistencia y relaciones locales entre víctimas, excombatientes y comunidades en Colombia (Ediciones Uniandes, 2012). An English version of my argument was also published in the International Journal of Transitional Justice. A decade after publishing that work, I wrote a reflection on the implications of local-level interactions among victims, ex-combatants, and their communities for our understanding of the politics of peace and justice in Angelika Rettberg and Juan Esteban Ugarriza’s edited volume Reconciliation: Experiences in Colombia and the World (Ediciones Uniandes, 2023).

In collaboration with other scholars, I have examined many other aspects of subnational politics in Latin America. In a coauthored chapter with Kent Eaton (UC Santa Cruz), we contributed to discussions on “subnational authoritarianism” by focusing on unitary countries (rather than the usual federal suspects), drawing on evidence from the aftermath of the parapolítica scandal in Colombia. Our work appears in Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean, edited by Tina Hilgers and Lauren Macdonald (Cambridge University Press, 2017). In an ongoing project with Will G. Freeman (Princeton University), we are investigating the claim that Colombia’s accountability institutions systematically and disproportionately investigate and sanction politicians who represent alternatives to the country’s traditional parties (read the most recent version of our working paper here).

Juan Diego Prieto Sanabria