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Research | David De Micheli

I study comparative politics with research interests in ethnic and identity politics, inequality and development, citizenship, and social movements. I have a regional interest in Latin America. Here you will find a brief description of my dissertation research and some information on my on-going projects and works under review.

​You can find my CV 
here.


​Current Book Project
How do social categories become political identities? I leverage the case of Brazil, where individuals have long capitalized on fluid racial boundaries to reclassify toward whiteness, but where in recent years this trend reversed itself toward blackness. I argue that this reversal is driven by the formation of a racialized political consciousness among the population, spurred by state-led efforts to incorporate lower-class sectors through educational expansion. Education has increased newly mobile citizens’ exposure to new information, social networks, and labor market experiences, leading many to challenge racial hierarchies and the national myth of racial unity. I build and test this argument with in-depth qualitative data collected during 15 months of fieldwork, quantitative analysis of census and pseudopanel data, and an originally designed survey and survey experiments. This project contributes a novel account of how individuals develop political consciousness in certain social categories and emphasizes the interaction between social structure and citizenship institutions in these processes.

Publications
2018. "The Racialized Effects of Social Programs in Brazil.'' Latin American Politics and Society 60, no. 1: 52-75.
Article - Online Appendix - Replication Files


Under Review

Tenuous Pacts and Multiparty Coalitions: The Politics of Impeachment in Latin America ​(with Ken Roberts and Jose Sanchez)
When and why do legislatures impeach presidents? We analyze a recent wave of instability in Latin America and contend that coalitional politics is central to understanding presidential impeachment. Presidents in Latin America often govern with multiparty and ideologically heterogeneous coalitions that are built on and sustained by tenuous pacts. When political conditions sour, impeachment threats emerge and coalitions are tested. Presidents are likely to survive threats when coalitional pacts are sustained, preventing congressional allies from resorting to impeachment in acts of opportunism, self-preservation, or retaliation. We test this argument with comparative process-tracing analysis of six possible cases of impeachment in Paraguay, Brazil, and Peru. This analysis draws attention to the centrality of the intricate and contingent dynamics of intra-coalitional politics as a proximate cause of presidential impeachment, above and beyond more generic challenges associated with economic crises or political scandals, partisan composition of legislatures, mass social protest, or legal malfeasance.
Manuscript.

What Is Political Identity? Concept Clarification with Insight from Brazil
References to “political identity” abound in political science scholarship, yet rarely do we offer clear definitions of the concept. This article seeks to clarify the concept by providing a definition that unites current usages in the literature and distinguishes political identity from the related concepts of social identity and political cleavages. I present critical discussion of three major usages in the literature and argue instead for a definition of political identity as categories of social membership that inspire group consciousness and shape individuals’ perceptions of power, broadly defined. To illustrate the empirical manifestations of this conceptualization and its analytical utility, I present qualitative analysis of in-depth interview data from Brazil and contrast individuals in the same racial category on the extent to which this identity inspires consciousness and shapes their interpretations of power. This article clarifies a commonly employed but rarely defined concept and offers a broadly applicable framework useful for diverse research agendas in identity politics scholarship and beyond.
Manuscript.

Racial Reclassification and Political Identity Formation
How do social categories become political identities? This article leverages an empirical phenomenon of racial reclassification in Brazil to gain insight into how individuals develop political consciousness. Conventional wisdom tells us the history of race mixture, fluid racial boundaries, and stigmatized blackness lead Brazilians to reclassify toward whiteness, but recent patterns show a marked and newfound tendency to reclassify toward blackness. I argue that this reversal is driven by the formation of a racialized political consciousness among many Brazilians, spurred by expanded access to education over the past several decades. Education has increased newly mobile citizens’ exposure to new information, social networks, and labor market experiences, leading many to challenge myths of racial unity and racial hierarchies. I test this argument by drawing on survey experiments, pseudo-panel analysis, and in-depth interviews with reclassifiers. This research contributes a novel account of political identity formation and emphasizes the interaction between social structure and citizenship institutions in these processes.
Manuscript.



On-Going Research

​Racial Reclassification, Education Reform, and Political Identity Formation in Brazil, book project.

"Contingent Confidence: Sources of Public Distrust in Latin America's Courts," with Whitney Taylor.

"On the Study of Brazil's 'Once-Rising Poor': Methodological Challenges and Samples from Recife, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo'' (with Benjamin Junge, Sean T. Mitchell, and Charles Klein).