My research is at the intersection of Comparative Politics and International Relations, and I focus on ethnic politics, conflict, and nonviolence. 

In my dissertation, "Strategies of Self-Determination: Conventional Politics, Nonviolence, and Violence under the Shadow of Ethnic Competition," I examine how fragmentation within ethnic groups that control the government impacts whether ethnopolitical minority organizations take part in elections, use nonviolence, or engage in violence to achieve their strategic goals.  The literature leads us to expect that the more fragmented and competitive the ethnic political minority group is, the more likely it is that ethnopolitical minority organizations will use violence against the state. Empirically, however, we see that organizations within fragmented ethnic minority groups just as often use nonviolence or participate in electoral politics to achieve their strategic goals.  

To understand this puzzle, I argue that while the effects of fragmentation have been studied extensively for ethnic minority groups, the same attention has not been paid to actors that are often just as fragmented and competitive – ethnic groups that control the government. Although ethnic groups that control the state are often represented by many parties that compete for the same base of support, they are generally assumed to be unitary. This is problematic, since it is likely that fragmentation and competition within ethnic groups that control the state affects how ethnic minorities bargain with them. My dissertation unpacks the unitary actor assumption for these ethnic political majorities, developing a theory that accounts for how ethnopolitical minority organizations choose to participate in elections, use nonviolence, or engage in violence under the shadow of ethnic political majority competition.

​The dissertation includes an original database of roll call votes in the Sri Lankan Parliament collected during fieldwork that captures the effect of fragmentation in a novel way, elite interviews conducted during fieldwork in Sri Lanka, and an original longitudinal database on ethnic majority group fragmentation across a global sample of countries. 

I am also interested in what causes organizations to mobilize along ethnic, multi-ethnic, or non-ethnic lines, how mobilization strategies changes over time, and what causes organizations within ethnically mobilized groups to cooperate with each other.  My other research interests include electoral politics under authoritarianism and the determinants of state repression. 

My research has been funded by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). 


Areas of Interest

  • ethnic politics and conflict
  • civil war, terrorism, insurgency
  • non-violence


  • Degree Type
    Degree Details
    International Studies, Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, Denver, CO
  • Degree Type
    Degree Details
    Political Science, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT


  • 2017. "Introducing the AMAR (All Minorities at Risk) Data" with Johanna K. Birnir, David D. Laitin, Jonathan Wilkenfeld, David M. Waguespack, and Ted Robert Gurr. Journal of Conflict Resolution 62(1): 203–226.
  • 2017. "Ethnic Politics" with Johanna K. Birnir. In Sandy Maisel, Ed. Oxford Bibliographies in Political Science New York: Oxford University Press.
  • 2015. "Socially Relevant Ethnic Group Structures and AMAR" with Johanna K. Birnir, Jonathan Wilkenfeld, James Fearon, David Laitin, Ted Robert Gurr, Dawn Brancati, Steven Saideman, and Amy Pate. Journal of Peace Research 52(1): 110–115.

Research Topics

  • Comparative Politics
  • International Relations
Heather's head
2117D Chincoteague Hall
Government and Politics Department
ahultqui [at]