University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Ambiguities of Democracy

Our research focuses on the paradoxes, unintended consequences, and hidden costs of efforts to promote democracy. On the surface, democratic reforms are designed to enhance the quality of democracy, but such reforms do not always lead to outcomes that are, in fact, democratic. Citizen empowerment movements define and constrict "valid" modes of political participation. Efforts to regulate political finance may entrench the power of dominant political parties and interest groups rather than spur new contestants and electoral competition. The adoption of electoral systems ostensibly designed to be more representative often mask hidden undemocratic motives. Mechanisms put in place to reduce electoral fraud sometimes increase fraud, alienate voters, or prevent people from going to the polls. In countries across the globe, middle class citizens endorse order and stability rather than mass participation, freedom, or equality as the goals of good government. Scholars in this cluster draw on a variety of methods rooted in interpretive, historical, post-structural, and quantitative research traditions.

Professor Ahmed's main area of specialization is democratic studies, with a special interest in elections, voting systems, legislative politics, party development, and voting rights. She examines these issues in historical and comparative perspective and her work combines a regional focus on Europe and the United States.  She is author of “Democracy and the Politics of Electoral...Read more

Paul M. Collins, Jr.

My research focuses on understanding bias and inequality in the legal system, the selection and work of judges, social movement litigation, and how people understand the law. 

I have published articles in the American Political Science Review, Journal of Law and Courts, Journal of Politics, Law & Social Inquiry,...Read more

Dr. Rowen's research focuses on the use of law to redress mass atrocity and aid vulnerable groups. She is the founding director of UMass' Center for Justice, Law, and Societies, and a research affiliate with the UMass Center of Excellence for Specialty Courts. Dr. Rowen's current projects examine relationships between immigration...Read more

My subfield of specialization is comparative politics and my methodological areas of expertise are interviewing, working with concepts, and interpretivism. Substantively, I study the meaning of democracy, the practice of voting, and the administration of elections. Read more