The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Frederic C. Schaffer

Frederic C. Schaffer, Frederic Charles Schaffer, Frederic Schaffer, Fred Schaffer

Professional Title: 

Professor of Political Science


Thompson 438

Phone Number: 



Office Hours: 

Spring 2022. By appointment via Zoom. Please email me if you wish to meet with me.


Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley


My subfield of specialization is comparative politics and my methodological area of expertise is the investigation of concepts. Substantively, I study the meaning of democracy, the practice of voting, and the administration of elections. What sets much of my work apart from other empirical research on democracy is my methodological focus on language. By carefully examining the differing ways in which ordinary people around the world use terms such as "democracy," "politics," and "vote buying" – or their rough equivalents in other languages – I aim to arrive at a fuller appreciation of how they understand and make use of electoral institutions. At UMass I offer undergraduate courses on the meaning of “politics,” the language of politics, and whether democracy is possible or desirable everywhere. At the graduate level I offer the comparative politics proseminar and a seminar on studying politics through language. Beyond UMass, I teach ethnographic interviewing at the yearly Institute for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research hosted by Syracuse University. I also teach courses on how to work with concepts in the social sciences at the Workshops on Social Science Research hosted by Concordia University and the European Consortium for Political Research Winter and Sunmmer Schools. In addition, I frequently serve as a “concepts expert” at the Methods Café held during the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association.  I am the chair of the Interpretive Methodologies and Methods related group of the American Political Science Association and past chair and current board member of the Committee on Concepts and Methods of the International Political Science Association. Among my publications are Democracy in Translation: Understanding Politics in an Unfamiliar Culture (1998), Elections for Sale: The Causes and Consequences of Vote Buying (2007), The Hidden Costs of Clean Election Reform (2008), and Elucidating Social Science Concepts: An Interpretivist Guide (2016). I am currently writing a conceptual history of “the voter,” an essay on the two way to compare, and another on interpretivist interviewing.

Area of Study: 

  • Comparative politics


  • Political Science