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Sebastian Elischer

Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Florida

Areas of interest: democratization, institutions and institutional reform, political Islam, violent extremism, ethnicity, sub-Saharan Africa

Sebastian Elischer joined the University of Florida in the fall of 2015. His work analyzes the interplay between identities and institutions. He is particularly interested in how identities shape and affect procedural democratization and other political dynamics in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In his first book Sebastian Elischer examined the salience of ethnic identities at the aggregate level of political parties in sub-Saharan Africa. His subsequent monograph Political Parties in Africa: Ethnicity and Party Formation was published by Cambridge University Press in 2013. It argues that the conventional conception of African parties as ethnic parties is wrong. Instead the African political landscape is considerably more diverse. Whereas ethnic parties dominate in some countries, non-ethnic parties have become the norm in others. Elischer finds a correlation between a country’s ethnic make-up and the salience of political ethnicity: countries with a core ethnic group are prone to form non-ethnic parties. In countries lacking a core ethnic group, ethnic parties constitute the norm. The book attracted reviews by Foreign Affairs, Party Politics, Political Science Quarterly, Perspectives on Politics, the Journal of Modern African Studies and African Studies Quarterly. His work on African parties also led to the publication of articles in Africa Spectrum and Democratization and a number of chapters in edited volumes. He received generous support from the Jacobs University Bremen (Germany) and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. Related work has appeared in the Review of African Political Economy and Comparative Governance and Politics.

His current work examines the effect of informal religious regulation on violent Islamic extremism in areas of weak statehood. He published his findings in African Affairs, Comparative Politics, and The Journal of the Middle East and Africa. Currently he is working on a number of additional articles. A book manuscript bringing together the findings from ten African countries is currently undergoing the final review at Cambridge University Press. For this project he received generous support from the Gerda Henkel Foundation, the UF Humanities Scholarship Enhancement Fund, a research grant from the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa and the American Political Science Association.

He regularly contributes to public debates on Africa. His most recent commentaries appeared in Foreign Affairs and the Monkey Cage. Between 2015 and 2017 he serves as co-editor of the Africa Yearbook. He has also provided extensive advice to the German foreign ministry and the German ministry for economic cooperation.


  • –present
    Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Florida