Wilson Center Experts
I began studying Latin American politics in college. I was fascinated by the Mexican and Cuban revolutions, and the failed attempt to construct socialism in an electoral democracy in Chile. I vividly recall the day after the Chilean coup d'état on September 11, 1973 when my history teacher, Professor Milton Vanger (a distinguished, gentlemanly historian of the Battle y Ordóñez period in Uruguay), walked into class and dropped the New York Times with its front page photo of the aerial bombing of La Moneda (the presidential palace) on the seminar table, as if he did not have the strength to hold it. I went to Chile the following summer, barely speaking Spanish, foolishly and naively believing I could answer the question of why the middle class had turned against the Allende government. I found an occupied country, wrote a mediocre thesis, but resolved to make studying Latin American politics my life. And that is what I have done since then. I did graduate work at MIT, one of the world's great meritocracies. When attempting to decide on a dissertation idea in the dark days of the late 1970s, and (after my experience in Chile in 1974) shunning any topics that would require field work in a highly repressive environment, I became fascinated by Brazil, which was liberalizing. I was spurred on by my great friend Elisa Reis. When Elisa asked me, "Why don't you do your dissertation on Brazil," I pointed out to her that I really didn't know a word of Portuguese. Her characteristically Brazilian reply was, "you'll learn." That dissertation resulted in my first book, Traditional Politics and Regime Change in Brazil. Were I to write that book today, I would have given it a different title - I got into way too much trouble by using the phrase, "traditional politics" - but the questions that book raised about democratization and regime change, an economically interventionist state, political clientelism, and limited political competition continue to motivate my research agenda even today. I have worked on the theme of the quality of democracy in Latin America for many years. With Scott Mainwaring, I edited The Third Wave of Democratization in Latin America, which set out to explain the region's unanticipated advances in democratization over the course of a quarter century in hard times and unlikely places, as well as a series of equally unanticipated recent setbacks. I have also written about the quality of democracy in Brazil and Chile, and I am particularly proud of a paper on "Latin American Citizenship and Democratic Theory," that appeared in a Woodrow Wilson Center volume on Citizenship in Latin America. My obsession with democracy and my firmly-held belief that how parties represent citizens matters have inspired my project, "Reorganizing Political Representation in Latin America," which I will be working on at the Wilson Center during 2007-08. Apart from politics and Latin America, my great loves are my husband of twenty-seven years, Tony Messina, our beloved son, Michael Messina, and the Boston Red Sox.
B.A. (1975) magna cum laude, with High Honors in Politics, Brandeis University; Ph.D. (1986) Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Director, University of Notre Dame, Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, 2002-03; Acting Director, 2000
- Associate Professor of Political Science, Tufts University, 1992-99
- Visiting Associate Professor, Department of Government, Harvard University, 1999, 1997
- Visiting Associate Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1993
- Assistant Professor of Political Science, Tufts University, 1991-92
- Assistant Professor of Government and of Social Studies, Harvard University, 1987-1991
Brazil; Democratization; Latin America
Reorganizing Political Representation in Latin America asks how parties and politicians represent citizens in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico. In a context in which economic reforms have created new programmatic divides and reduced the opportunities for distributing patronage, I explain their choices to compete on program, patronage, or competence as strategic responses to the logic of inter-party competition. I draw from original surveys of 420 legislators in 16 major parties to describe party cohesion and distance on key issue dimensions, the nature of electoral appeals made by parties and politicians, and the nature and amount of constituency service they perform.
- Religious Pluralism, Democracy, and the Catholic Church in Latin America: Social Change,
Religion, and Politics in the Twenty-first Century (ed.) University of Notre Dame Press (forthcoming).
- The Third Wave of Democratization in Latin America: Advances and Setbacks (co-edited with Scott Mainwaring). Cambridge University Press (2005).
- Traditional Politics and Regime Change in Brazil. Cambridge University Press (1996).