Hi! I am a postdoctoral research fellow in International Relations at the University of St. Gallen. I hold a PhD degree from the University of Mannheim and an MPhil degree from the University of Oxford. I’m particularly interested in the empirical study of human rights violations, international organizations, and of state repression in authoritarian regimes. In my doctoral dissertation (defended in February 2022), I conducted an empirical and conceptual study of political imprisonment. My research has been published in Journal of Politics, Journal of Peace ResearchJournal of Conflict Resolution, Conflict Management and Peace Science, Journal of Global Security Studies, Review of International Organization, International Interactions, and German Politics. I also published blog post and policy briefs on platforms such as the Washington Post Monkey Cage, Political Violence at a Glance, Open Global Rights, and the Oxford University Politics Blog.

In my article The duration of political imprisonment: Evidence from China I investigate which factors shape how long Chinese political prisoners remain in detention. The Chinese regime is well-known for the large-scale detention of dissidents and ethnic minorities. However, little is known about the fates of Chinese political prisoners. I argue that the duration of political imprisonment is shaped by (a) the perceived threat of individuals’ actions, and (b) their ethnic and religious identities. Drawing on the Chinese political prisoner database, I investigate predictors of the duration of political imprisonment with survival models. Since preceding actions shape detention times, I hand-code each prisoner’s criminalized actions that led to incarceration. The evidence suggests that the Chinese regime conditions the duration of political imprisonment on prisoners demands and their collective action potentials. The findings further demonstrate that ethnic Uyghurs and Tibetans are significantly longer imprisoned than non-minority political prisoners. Additional analyses demonstrate that ethnic Uyghurs are also significantly more likely to die in prison.

In my article „Who is a political prisoner?“, I develop a novel conceptual basis for academic research on political imprisonment. I identify the key dimensions of disagreement in previous academic conceptualizations of political prisoners. Definitions of political prisoners differ primarily with regard to (1) the source of politicization, (2) the timing of politicization, (3) the question of nonviolence, (4) the inclusion of identity prisoners, and (5) the criteria for biased state actions. I argue that the term political prisoner should be exclusively reserved for victims of politically biased trials while remaining agnostic about prisoners’ individual motivations. Otherwise, each politically motivated action ranging from right-wing extremism to jihadism would qualify individuals as political prisoner. Further, I emphasize that the concept of political prisoners is never a purely empirical category as it relies on the assumption that there are extra-state principles that limit legitimate state action. Since the specification of these principles cannot occur in an apolitical vacuum, the concept relies inherently and necessarily on a normative-political premise. I call for a common benchmark grounded in international law, to make political imprisonment comparable on a global scale.

In the publication Spoilers of peace: Pro-government militias as risk factors for conflict recurrence, we show that conflicts where pro-government militias are deployed as counterinsurgents are more likely to recur. We argue that militiamen develop incentives to spoil post-conflict peace since they are usually absent in peace negotiations between rebels and governments. Further, disarmament and reintegration programs tend to exclude pro-government militias. Drawing on statistical simulations, propensity score matching, and logistic regression models, we find empirical support for our claims.