Rebecca Tapscott


Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy
Areas of expertise
  • Democratic governance
  • Democratic participation
  • State-building
  • Armed conflicts, violence
  • Critical security studies
  • Ethics of qualitative research
Geographical Region of Expertise
  • Subsaharan Africa


Rebecca Tapscott is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy and a visiting fellow at the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa at the London School of Economics. Rebecca’s research is broadly concerned with the role of ambiguity, uncertainty, and disorder in governance. Her work at the Hirschman Centre examines regime longevity in illiberal democracies, specifically examining arbitrary governance as a characteristic differentiating liberal from illiberal democracies. Her current project studies arbitrary governance in contemporary Uganda through a study of citizens’ experiences in the security sector, showing how unpredictable and potentially violent state intervention undermine democratic participation and fragment civil society, thereby making formally democratic institutions serve illiberal ends.

Rebecca’s second project examines the transnational political economy of ethics research committees and associated institutions, with a focus on the social sciences and the global south. The project asks how these institutions, which are tasked with enforcing loosely defined ethical principles, impact knowledge production. It is concerned with the transnational politics of regulation, and looks at global north and global south institutions, specifically in relation to how these institutions shape what we know about democratic life in semi-authoritarian or illiberal democratic regimes.

Rebecca’s work has been supported by the Gerda Henkel Foundation’s Special Programme for Security, Society and the State; the Centre for Public Authority and International Development at the London School of Economics; Harvard University’s Program on Negotiation; and many others. She has held consultancies with international and domestic development organizations and has extensive experience with field research in west and east Africa.