University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Teaching and Mentoring

At the undergraduate level, I teach Introduction to Comparative Political Economy, Energy Politics (IE) and Central Asian Politics (IE).

At the graduate level, I have taught courses in Political Economy (with Kevin Young),  Political Economy of Development and in Fall 2019, Powering Development. 


Mentoring students is one of the most meaningful parts of my work. 

Please see below for a summary of my current and former Ph.D. students at UMass Amherst.

I have also worked with numerous undergraduate students as they apply to graduate school including Law Schools and MA programs in International Relations, Urban Planning, and Political Science. 


Chair of Dissertation Committee

Usmaan Farooqui is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science with a specialization in comparative politics. Usmaan's work focuses on public service access, focusing on urban planning, governance and popular politics in large cities. His dissertation, entitled Precarious Pipes: Governance, Informality and the Politics of Access in Karachi, Pakistan, examines wider processes of urban stasis and transformation through the lens of water access in Pakistan's largest, notoriously conflict-prone and most water-stressed city. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and an analysis of the city’s planning practices since independence in 1947, this project explores how the state has evolved new forms of "temporary rule" to address rising urban uncertainty and scarcity in Karachi. It further demonstrates how, in engaging and responding to the structures that seek to govern them, everyday residents are changing the nature of Karachi's precarious social order. His future research aims to apply insights gained from the South Asian experience to better understand the effects of environmental and demographic change in cities of the global North. Usmaan received a B.A. in Economics from the University of Edinburgh in 2011 and an MSc in Political Theory from the London School of Economics in 2012. He is currently an American Council of Learned Societies Dissertation Completion Fellow (2019-2020).

Mohsen Jalali is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science with a concentration in comparative politics. Mohsen’s research examines domestic and international challenges to building state institutions, developing economies, and increasing democratic participation.  He has copmleted 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork in the Old Bazaar (Mandawi) in the Capital City of Kabul, Afghanistan. His dissertation, Politics of Interaction: State, Space, and Identity in an Afghan Bazaar, examines the politics of social interactions in this delimited space, in particular with a focus on developing an understanding of the significance of state, space, and class, gender, and ethnic identities in the everyday interactions among ordinary citizens in Afghanistan. His focus on people’s perceptions of themselves, others, the past, agents of the state, and their anticipations of the future opens up venues to understand their ideals in state-building and what makes, in their views, an institution legitimate. Mohsen’s research is particular attuned to his informants’ struggles to understand themselves as individuals and as members of communities on local and national levels. Mohsen holds a BA and MA in philosophy from University of Tehran. Prior to UMASS, he participated in the Diploma in American Studies program at Smith College, with a thesis titled “American Interests in 1953 Coup in Iran.”


Member of Dissertation Committee

Eric Sippert is a Visiting Scholar at the University of Michigan’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies as well as a PhD candidate in Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a concentration in Comparative Politics. He studies how marginalized actors use transnational connections to engage in political action and what form that action takes. His dissertation, Globalization from the Grassroots: Transnational Linkages and Power in Guatemala focuses on an organization of returned migrants and their network. This network includes foreign NGOs, small-scale producers, Spanish schools, and other grassroots organizations. His ethnography shows that transnational linkages, often facilitated by migration, engender new forms of socio-political organization that provide disadvantaged local actors leverage vis-à-vis outside actors albeit under the constant threat of both structural and interpersonal violence. 

Kira Tait is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at UMass Amherst working on a dissertation entitled Roadblocks to Access: Interpretations of Legal Institutions in Post-Apartheid South Africa. She conducted her field research in South Africa with grants from the Fulbright, NSF Law and Social Sciences Dissertation Improvement Grant, and the UMass Amherst Graduate School.  She has given presentations of her research in South Africa as well as at the Law and Society and APSA Annual Meetings.  She holds a BA with honors in Political Science from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY). 

Lauren Woodard is a cultural anthropologist with a Ph.D. from UMass Amherst. Her research focuses on migration, race, and national identity in Russia and Central Asia. Based on 13 months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted among government officials and immigrants in the Russian Far East with support from the Fulbright and Wenner Gren fellowships, Lauren's dissertation - "The Politics of Return: Migration, Race, and Belonging” - examined tensions between exclusion and inclusion in Russia's migration policies. She is currently an analyst at the Government Accountability Office in Washington, DC. For more on her research, visit