Participant Info

First Name
Catherine Lena
Last Name
American Council of Learned Societies Public Fellow
Political party systems, Democratization, Islam and politics, Rule of law, Democracy and governance program evaluation
Media Contact

Personal Info

About Me

I am currently an American Council of Learned Societies Public Fellow, serving as a Program Analyst at the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) from 2015-17.  My latest research interests are in the links between political science theories of the rule of law and the practical implementation of rule of law programming, especially in closing civic spaces.  Since becoming an ACLS fellow, ABA ROLI has published my program evaluation of their African Center for Justice program at

More broadly, I focus on the comparative politics of Africa, especially party proliferation, party building, democratization, and Islam in politics.  I am also interested in the historical origins of contemporary state legitimacy, postcolonial foreign interventions, and language politics in Africa, as well as the role of films and novels in social inquiry.

My research has been influenced by over eighteen months of fieldwork in West Africa, done primarily in French and Wolof languages.  My dissertation, “Why (So Many) Parties? The Logic of Party Formation in Senegal,” investigates why hundreds of politicians are creating their own parties and how the logic of party formation affects opposition party trajectories and presidential turnover.  This research has been supported by two U.S. Department of Education’s Foreign Language & Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the Harvard University Committee on General Scholarships, and the American Political Science Association (APSA) Africa Workshop on religion and politics.

Recent Publications

Book project in progress. Why (So many) Parties?  Party Proliferation, Opposition Party-Building, and Turnover in Senegal.  Research funded by West Africa Research Association, U.S. Department of Education Foreign Language & Area Studies grants, and Harvard University.

Forthcoming in 2016 with El Hadji Samba Amadou Diallo. “Sufi Turuq and the Politics of Democratization in Senegal.”

“Senegal: What Will Turnover Bring?” Journal of Democracy 23:3 (July 2012), 121-131.

“Notes on Recent Elections: The 2012 Legislative Election in Senegal.”  Electoral Studies 32:3 (2013), 905-908.

 “Belgian Intervention Policy in D.R. Congo: Causes and Consequences of the Reorientation.”  Cahiers du Réseau Multidisciplinaire d’Etudes Stratégiques 4:2, hiver 2007-08, 59-106.

“The Gambia” and “Senegal.” Freedom in the World 2016. New York: Freedom House.

“Senegal.” Freedom in the World 2015. New York: Freedom House.

 “The Gambia” and “Senegal.” Freedom in the World 2014. New York: Freedom House.

with Jason Warner. “Why the U.S. Military Should Care About African Opposition Parties,” Council on Foreign Relations Africa in Transition blog, 27 March 2013.

 “Did the June 23 Movement Change Senegal?” African Futures blog, Social Science Research Council, 12 July 2012.

Media Coverage

Guest speaker on party politics on the Sopi FM 99.6 Wolof language talk show; Dakar, June 2015.

Country Focus

Research Areas

If this is your entry, please click here to request a link to edit your information.