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Fiona Shen-Bayh

Fiona Shen-Bayh is a WCED Postdoctoral Fellow (2018-20). Her current research looks at the role judicial and extrajudicial strategies of repression play in autocratic survival. She specifically examines how autocrats weaponize courts to eliminate political rivals and the effects of such practices on post-autocratic rule of law. Drawing on the experiences of sub-Saharan African countries in the postcolonial period, her findings show that repression methods often vary according to the source of the threat, which has important ramifications for how arbitrary rule is legitimized. By highlighting the repressive character of courts, this research deepens our understanding of how autocrats establish law and order and defuse threats to power.

As a postdoctoral fellow, Fiona will work on a book manuscript that examines the origin, evolution, and legacy of weaponized courts in sub-Saharan Africa. She will also begin a new project that examines judicial strategies in weakly institutionalized democracies. Focusing on countries that have transitioned to multiparty rule will illuminate the continuity of judicial repression strategies over time, including the ways in which autocratic practices have been transformed for democratic challenges.


  • Ph.D., Political Science, University of California, Berkeley, 2018
  • M.A., Political Science, University of California, Berkeley, 2012
  • B.A., Economics, Vassar College, 2011

Awards and Honors

  • Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award, University of California, Berkeley (2018)
  • Research Fellow, Center for African Studies, University of California, Berkeley (2016-18)
  • National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (2016)
  • Reinhard Bendix Memorial Fellowship, Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley (2015-16)
Following her WCED Fellowship, Professor Shen-Bayh accepted a position as assistant professor of government at the College of William & Mary.