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Northwestern University

Bucerius Fieldwork Grant

Escaping Authoritarianism: Civic Participation Strategies in the Syrian Revolution


While scholarship on authoritarian regimes tends to trace pillars of endurance primarily to structural factors, autocracies also maintain power by conditioning citizens’ political behavior, particularly in what I call participation strategies: attitudes and methods an individual uses to access goods and services. In this analysis of the Syrian Revolution that focuses on individuals’ participation in civic activities, I explore the causal factors determining why individuals reproduce or reject participation strategies that are key to keeping the Assad regime in power. Specifically, I suggest that the adoption of competitive versus cooperative strategies is a function of individuals’ assessments of social trust and self-efficacy.

Salma Al-Shami is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at Northwestern University (Evanston, IL). Her research interest lies at the intersection of scholarship on civil society, political behavior, and political psychology. Employing both qualitative and quantitative methods, her dissertation focuses on civic responsibility and civic participation in the Syrian Revolution. She holds a Master´s degree and a BA in Political Science from Northwestern University. She was a 2009 - 2010 Fulbright Fellow in Damascus, Syria, where she was researching the emergence of private university education and its impact on development.

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