Harriman Institute post doctoral fellows


  • Yana Gorokhovskaia

    Postdoctoral Research Scholar in Russian Politics
    Columbia University
    212 854-4623

    Yana Gorokhovskaia completed her Ph.D. in political science at the University of British Columbia in August 2016. She is interested in the dynamics of Russia’s modern electoral authoritarian regime as well as other aspects of the Communist legacy in Eastern Europe.

    Her dissertation, “Elections, Political Participation, and Authoritarian Responsiveness in Russia,” relies on both qualitative and quantitative methods to analyze subnational elections, public mobilization, and political engagement in Russia. Broadly, Yana’s dissertation makes three contributions. First, using a dataset of socio-political protest across Russia’s regions, Yana shows that Russian elites are responsive to public demand making and that elections in so-called “noisier” regions are both more competitive and more tightly controlled. On the one hand, regime-backed candidates tend to have a harder time avoiding run-off elections in regions with a recent history of protest. On the other hand, opposition candidates tend to be disqualified before the election at higher rates in these same regions. This finding suggests that electoral malpractices in electoral authoritarian regimes is tailored in such a way as to avoid damaging the perceived legitimacy of the regime. Second, using original, in-depth interview data with activists and politicians conducted in St. Petersburg and Moscow, Yana shows that the involvement of previously apolitical non-elite actors in organized politics in an authoritarian state is motivated by protest waves and facilitated by education, training, and organization provided civil society. Once in office, these opposition-minded individuals tend to rely on hyper-legalistic methods for combating small-scale corruption, a finding that contrasts with prevalent arguments in the literature on informal politics in post-Soviet states. Lastly, Yana argues for the expansion of the framework of the “uneven playing field" of authoritarian elections to include efforts by the regime to promote rather than stifle competition. Based on observations research in Moscow, she suggests that the pursuit of electoral legitimacy motivates autocrats to use administrative measures not to keep opposition candidates out of elections but rather to ensure their participation.

    Yana’s two main projects at the Harriman Institute expand on her dissertation research. The first project analyzes the economic drivers of voter turnout across Russia’s regions. Voter turnout has been shown to be a powerful tool for an authoritarian regime. Recent research suggests that employees or members of sectors that are highly economically dependent on the state are vulnerable to mobilization efforts in support of United Russia (UR). Yet we do not understand the relative strategic importance of each set of vulnerable populations nor whether mobilization efforts are uniform across types of elections or over time. This projects aims to answer these questions by analyzing the variation in turnout across Russia’s regions and across different election types from 2005 to 2015. The second project uses social network analysis and draws on articles about Russian civil society that use qualitative methods published in the last ten years in leading regional study journals to analyze the structure and density of Russian civil society as well as to determine which sources scholars of Russia tend to rely when drawing conclusions about political dynamics in that country.

    In addition to these projects, Yana is interested more widely in the post-Soviet region and has written about the way post-Communist states engage with their past, the annexation of Crimea, and issues of migration from the “near-abroad” in Russia. During her time at UBC, she taught courses on comparative politics, international relations and comparative political institutions. She also co-supervised the Undergraduate Honours program in the Department of Political Science for two years, during which time she received a Killam Teaching Award.


  • Edward Lemon

    Postdoctoral Research Scholar
    Columbia University
    212 854-4623

    Edward submitted his Ph.D. dissertation, “Governing Religion and Security in Tajikistan and Beyond,” at the University of Exeter in July 2016. His dissertation examines the ways in which the government of Tajikistan’s campaign against Islamic extremism has become transnational. Since 2002, the government of Tajikistan has deployed its security apparatus outside of the state’s territorial borders at least 49 times, intimidating, kidnapping and monitoring its citizens. He uses the term “transnational authoritarian security governance” to refer to these border-spanning security practices. In his dissertation, he traces the emergence of this form of governance during the Soviet Union, the power relationships that it involves, and the ways in which those who are affected by it can resist.

    As a fellow at the Harriman Institute, Lemon will revise his dissertation for publication as a monograph. As well as conducting further fieldwork, he plans to expand the scope of his study to include cases involving Uzbekistan.  In addition, he will continue ongoing research projects on Central Asian fighters in Iraq and Syria, resistance to security governance, and the relationship between authoritarianism and security.

    Edward has spent almost three years living and working in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. His research has appeared or is forthcoming in Central Asian Affairs, Review of Middle East Studies, Foreign Affairs, Central Asian Survey, First World War Studies, Central Asian Survey and The RUSI Journal. Lemon wrote the Tajikistan chapter for Freedom House’s “Nations in Transit” report in 2015.

  • Douglas Joseph MacKay

    Postdoctoral Research Fellow
    Columbia University
    212 854-4623

    Joseph MacKay completed his Ph.D. in Political Science, specializing on international relations and political theory, at the University of Toronto, in July 2015. His postdoctoral research will focus on the role of legitimacy in inter-imperial relations, during periods of imperial expansion. The project develops a typology of ways in which empires claim legitimate rule over their peripheries, defining empires as either universalist, asserting a unique right to rule; competitive, asserting membership in an elite club of imperial powers; or mimetic, making no such systematic claims, and instead mirroring the authority claims of others. Since empires will lose legitimacy if their actions are inconsistent with these claims, such claims made before subordinates likely constrain imperial policymaking. Consequently, interactions between imperial cores will likely be shaped by imperial commitments at the periphery. The project explores these ideas in the context of imperial expansion into Central Asia, with a focus on the British, Russian, and Chinese empires, interacting with one another and with the region’s indigenous power structures. Previously, MacKay’s doctoral research, entitled “Experimental Wars: Learning and Complexity in Counterinsurgency,” concerned individual-level foreign policy learning processes, in the context of complex policy problems, with a focus on counterinsurgent warfare. His research has appeared or is forthcoming in the Review of International Studies, International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, Central Asian Survey, and Social Science History, and with co-authors in the Journal of International Relations and Development, International Studies Review, Terrorism and Political Violence, International Peacekeeping, International Politics, and International Theory.

  • Maria Ratanova

    Postdoctoral Research Scholar
    Columbia University
    212 854-4623

    Maria Ratanova completed her Ph.D. in Slavic Literature at Harvard University in May 2016. She specializes in the history of the Russian avant-garde.
    Her dissertation is titled “The Soviet Political Photomontage of the 1920s: The Case of Gustav Klucis.” In this project she explores the origins of this particular trend of the Soviet Constructivism, its modernist message and political underpinnings, as well as its complex interrelationships with avant-garde tendencies in poetry, theater, and film in the 1920s.
    She argues that Soviet political photomontage, often perceived as an aesthetic compromise to meet the needs of a mass audience, was in fact an iconoclastic and provocative genre—the result of the Constructivists’ search for an analytical art form to interpret modern political reality. She believes that Soviet political photomontage, born around the time of Lenin’s death in 1924, was a response both to the tyranny of the emerging Lenin cult and the grip of the realist painting tradition employed by artists in the 1920s and 1930s to support and promote the cult of the communist leader. She focuses in particular on the work of Gustav Klucis, a Latvian artist, who became a pioneer of Soviet political photomontage. As a postdoctoral scholar at the Harriman Institute, Maria Ratanova will expand her research into the 1930s, and turn her dissertation into a monograph.
    During her time at Harvard Ratanova taught courses on art and politics in Russia and Eastern Europe, the 20th-century post-realist novel in Eastern Europe, and the Western art tradition since the Renaissance.
    Maria Ratanova is also a dance critic and historian. Her research has appeared in the anthologies: Modernism in Kyiv: Jubilant Experimentation (Toronto, 2010), Avant-Garde and Theater of the 1910s-1920s (Avangard i teatr 1910-1920kh godov, Moscow, 2008), Russian Arts and Culture Abroad: 1917-1939 (Khudozhestvennaya kul’tura russkogo zarubezhia: 1917-1939, Moscow, 2008), as well as other publications.

  • Rune Steenberg

    Interact Postdoctoral Research Scholar
    Columbia University
    212 854-4623

    Rune Steenberg is a trained anthropologist and human geographer. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. from Freie Universität Berlin and has subsequently been a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Dahlem Research School of Freie Universität Berlin and Crossroads Asia Fellow at Bonn University. Steenberg has done research in Kyrgyzstan and Xinjiang since 2007. In southern Kyrgyzstan, he examined social interaction around the annual walnut harvest and the networks of Uyghur traders from western Xinjiang. He has followed these networks to their villages of origin around Kashgar city, where he found marriages to be a central institution for their success in business and more generally social organization beyond markets and state institutions. At the center of Rune’s research is a focus on conceptualizations of social relations and their expression and constitution in spatial, bodily, verbal and exchange practices. 

    During his time in Berlin Steenberg has taught courses on the history of anthropological theory, methods of social anthropology, methods of human geography and Uyghur language. At the Harriman Institute, Steenberg will explore nuances in the language of giving at life cycle rituals in a more comparative perspective across Post-Soviet and Chinese Central Asia and its multiplex interaction with state institutions. As an extension of this research he has recently started to explore the meanings and social significance of money lending, money transfer, monetization and financialization among Uyghurs in Xinjiang and beyond. A further strand of his research interest concerns the historical development of Uyghur kinship practices and conceptualizations in Xinjiang. Steenberg has also been working in eastern China and Indonesia.
    His publications include: “Crossing at Irkeshtam. Kinship and Border Trade Between Kyrgyzstan and China,” in the edited volume Tracing Connections (2014) by Andreas Benz and Henryk Alff and “Tausch und Kategorien bei der Nussernte in Kyzyl Üngkür” in Mensch und Umwelt in Kirgistan (2014), edited by Matthias Schmidt, as well as the Crossroads Asia Working Paper “Network or Community? Two tropes for Analysing Social Relations among Uyghur Traders in Kyrgyzstan” (2014), “The transforming House — Changing Spatiality and Genealogy of ’the House’ in Kashgar” in Mobiles Asia Forum.