Working Papers

Mai Hassan. “Coordinated Dis-Coordination.” 

Dissidents coordinating mobilization against a repressive regime benefit from making coordination public: this increases the call’s spread, and thus the potential size of mobilization. But public calls are heard by the regime, giving security forces advanced knowledge of, and improved ability to, stifle mobilization. How do dissidents coordinate collective action under repressive environments? I examine mobilization during Sudan’s 2018-19 uprising and find that mobilization appeared to be publicly coordinated by a social movement organization through internet and communicative technologies, consistent with common coordination channels identified by existing literature. Yet some dissidents independently used these public widespread calls to secretly organize simultaneous collective action away from main protest sites, intentionally deviating from publicly coordinated calls to confuse security forces. By looking deeply within the internal workings of a protest movement, this paper suggests that existing literature may be mis-attributing successful coordination in repressive environments to public-facing channels of mobilization. (link)

Mai Hassan and Ahmed Kodouda. “Dismantling Old - or Forging New - Clientelistic Ties? Sudan’s Civil Service Reform After Revolution.”

Civil service reform is often a top priority for popular movements that unseat autocracy, and during democratic transitions more broadly: when a deposed autocracy had relied upon a clientelistic state to stay in power, in which bureaucrats were rewarded for using their authority to further the regime’s interests, new political elites attempt to undertake fundamental changes to the state and its personnel upon taking over. Yet despite initially-aligned politician incentives for civil service reform in post-uprising contexts, we highlight how bureaucratic actions can serve as a causal antecedant to new politicians' subsequent stymieing of reform: bureaucrats can leverage their embedded knowledge of state processes to forge clientelistic ties with new political elites. This in turn prompts politicians to use their power to block attempts to create more rational-legal agencies. We trace these dynamics through in-depth qualitative and ethnographic data of (failed) efforts to reform Sudan’s civil service after the 2018-19 popular uprising which unseated a 30-year autocracy. Overall, this paper helps explain why so many recent popular uprisings that have come to power have been unable to deliver the large-scale transformative reform upon which they were launched by focusing attention on the elements of the former autocracy that survived the transition. (link)


Mai Hassan, Horacio Larreguy, and Stuart Russell. “Who Gets Hired? Political Patronage and Bureaucratic Favoritism.”

Most research on hiring in the public sector highlights the incentives of local politicians to distribute government positions to partisan supporters or clientelistic brokers. Other  studies separately point to the role of high-ranking bureaucratic managers in allocating government jobs to close contacts. We jointly consider these sources of biased hiring by conceptualizing the relative importance of political patronage versus bureaucratic favoritism as a bargaining problem between politicians and bureaucratic managers who have different incentives regarding public sector hiring and different abilities to realize their priorities. We examine the theory by collecting the universe of payroll data in Kenyan local governments from 2004 to 2013, resulting in a dataset of 168,537 person-years. We find evidence of both patronage and bureaucratic favoritism, but as theorized, these different types of bias are concentrated in different kinds of government jobs. Together, this paper suggests the inadequacy of examining political patronage alone without incorporating the preferences and bargaining power of the bureaucratic managers who are intricately involved in hiring processes. (link)