Dana El Kurd, Ph.D.


Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, Doha Institute

Country: Qatar

About Me:

Dana El Kurd received her PhD in Government from The University of Texas at Austin in June 2017. She specializes in Comparative Politics and International Relations. 

Theoretically, Dana is interested in the conflicts between states and their societies and the contentious politics they produce. She examines how authoritarian regimes try to implement policies and how external intervention may affect their success. Her research lies at the intersection of comparative and IR research, particularly with regards to international influence on regime development. 

Substantively, Dana is interested in international involvement and authoritarianism within the Arab world. Her multi-method research focuses on how authoritarian regimes in the Arab world have maintained durability, as well as the societal impact of this authoritarianism on political engagement.  Dana writes regularly for publications such as Al-Araby al-Jadeed, The Washington Post's Monkey Cage blog, and Foreign Affairs. She is a member of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network. She currently works as a researcher at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies at the Doha Institute. 

Research Interests

Non-Democratic Regimes

Middle East & North African Politics

Political Participation

Comparative Democratization

Experimental Research

Political Violence

Specific Areas of Interest

Palestinian Politics



My Research:

Dana's book project, based on her dissertation, explores the mechanisms by which international patrons exacerbate authoritarian conditions. She argues in her work that international involvement often creates a divergence between elite and public opinion, as political leadership becomes insulated from public pressure. Such regimes gain their legitimacy from external powers, and their insulation allows them to rely increasingly on authoritarian strategies. Through the use of such strategies, particularly repression, regimes can polarize their public in a variety of ways. These strategies also have an effect on the public's level of political mobilization and engagement.  In these cases, increasing polarization and declining engagement exacerbate authoritarianism further in a self-reinforcing dynamic. Dana conceived of this topic in August 2014, defended the proposed research May 2015, and conducted fieldwork to collect data from June 2015 to June 2016.

Dana predominantly uses the case of Palestine to explore these dynamics, but also looks at cases such as Bahrain and Iraqi Kurdistan for comparative analysis. She was hosted by Birzeit University as a Visiting Scholar to conduct her fieldwork, where she utilized laboratory experiments, surveys, qualitative analysis, and statistical methods.  Data collected includes: an original nationally-representative survey of Palestinian public-opinion, over 50 interviews with decision-makers within the Palestinian Authority, activists, and political leadership, lab-in-field experiments assessing polarization and political behavior, and an original dataset (+50,000 observations) of daily political mobilization across the territories.