• Department of Political Science


    Political Economy
    & Violence

    CV (.pdf)
  • Department of Political Science


    Political Economy
    & Violence

    CV (.pdf)




I am a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of California, San Diego. I study diplomatic negotiations and the causes of political violence.

In my dissertation, Wars for the People: Leaders, Audiences, and the Use of Force, I evaluate how leaders escalate or settle military disputes in response to domestic pressure. Using game theory, experimental and observational data, and historical cases, I demonstrate that constituents are often overly optimistic about the results of military escalation. Domestic enthusiasm for war can even motivate politicians to take aggressive actions that leaders themselves consider counterproductive for the country as a whole.

My next major project, The Governance Market: Insurgency, Civil Conflict, and the Accountable State, is a book manuscript with Alexei Abrahams. We argue that citizens living in fragile states face a tradeoff between empowering a government to enforce order and deterring the government from engaging in abuse. Citizens, however, can resolve this dilemma by nurturing insurgent groups that challenge state control. Using game theory and evidence from a series of historic and contemporary conflicts, we identify conditions in which the threat of insurgency will either provoke civil violence or, alternatively, motivate incumbent regimes to establish political guarantees for citizens. The results invite a fundamental rethinking of the ethical and practical implications of foreign intervention; the causes of conflict recidivism; and the overall relationship between civilians, insurgents, and governance outcomes.

Finally, before joining UCSD I worked as the debate coach at Lewis & Clark College. As such, some of my earlier publications relate to argumentation theory and communication pedagogy. If you have questions or wish to contact me, please email bmerrell@ucsd.edu.

Brandon Merrell


University of California, San Diego

  • Ph.D., Political Science (2013-Present; expected defense in June 2019)
    • Committee: David Lake (co-chair), Branislav Slantchev (co-chair),
        Eli Berman, Lauren Prather, Phil Roeder
  • M.A., Political Science (2015)

Southern Illinois University

  • B.A., Economics and Political Science (2011)

Western Kentucky University

  • Undergraduate (2007-2009)


Institute for Global Conflict and Cooperation

  • Herb York Fellow (2017-18)

Lewis & Clark College

  • Debate Coach, Rhetoric and Media Studies (2011-2012)


Political Science

Refereed Publications

"Denmark, 1940-1945: Armed Resistance and Agency Slippage in Germany's Model Protectorate"

  • in Proxy Wars: Suppressing Violence through Local Agents,
  • edited by Eli Berman and David Lake. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2019.

Conference Papers or Work Under Review

"Unprogrammed Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting"

  • Revise & Resubmit at World Development
  • with Brian Engelsma and Gerry Mackie

"Vetoing the Peace: The Agency Dilemma in Crisis Decision-Making"

    • ISA 2018, SPSA 2019

"The War Referendum: Hawkish Preferences and Domestic Support for War"

    • APSA 2016

"The Secrecy Gambit: Clandestine Power Shifts and Preventive Conflict"

  • with Alexei Abrahams
    • APSA 2017, SPSA 2018, APSA 2018

"Monopolies of Violence? Civil Insurgency and the Accountability Deficit"

  • with Alexei Abrahams
    • APSA 2018, SPSA 2019

"Media Bias in Presidential Press Questions"

  • with Kevin Calderwood
    • APSA 2017, SPSA 2018, ICA 2018

"Renaming and Credit Claiming in Federal Agencies"

  • with Richard Flores
    • APSA 2017, MPSA 2018

Previous Research

Refereed Articles in Other Fields

"Debate across the Disciplines: Structured Classroom Debates in Interdisciplinary Curricula"

  • with Kevin Calderwood and Todd Graham
  • Contemporary Argumentation and Debate, Vol. 37, pp. 57-74, 2017.

"Back to its Roots: Accuracy as the Litmus Test for Topicality"

  • with Todd Graham
  • Parliamentary Debate, Vol 13, No. 2, pp. 21-68, November 2016.

"Contrasting Structures, Conditional Strategies: Designing Format-Specific Theories for Competitive Debate"

  • with Todd Graham
  • Parliamentary Debate, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 1-37, May 2016.

"The Intersection of Competitions and Classrooms in Forensics Pedagogy"

  • with Kevin Calderwood and Richard Flores
  • Communication Studies, Vol. 66, No. 4, pp. 433-47, August 2015.

Other Publications

"Illegal Wildlife Trafficking - The Unseen Environmental Harms"

  • with Thomas Schally
  • in Up for Debate: U.S. Foreign Policy Options Towards the Greater Horn of Africa,
  • edited by Danny Cantrell and Brandy Brickey, pp. 1-24. La Mirada, CA: Picket Fence, 2009.

Brandon Merrell - CV

Click below for a .pdf version.


Security, Political Economy, and Research Methods


Applied Data Analysis for Political Science (x2)
Crisis Areas in World Politics (x2)
Data Analysis for the Social Sciences
International Crisis Diplomacy
Introduction to American Politics
Mathematical and Statistical Foundations (graduate, x3)

Discussion Sections

International Politics & Security (graduate)
Introduction to International Relations (x3)

Research Mentor

Frontiers of Political Science (honors thesis seminar, x2)
Policy Responses to Global Problems (graduate research capstone)
Political Science Research Apprenticeship Program
Postwar Politics in Japan (graduate)


Email Preferred


Brandon Merrell
University of California, San Diego
Department of Political Science
Social Sciences Building 301
9500 Gilman Drive, 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521

Email & Other

Email: bmerrell@ucsd.edu
Homepage: www.brandonmerrell.com
Office: Social Science Building 448