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PhD in Political Science at the University of Michigan

Dr David Backer joined the Center for International Development and Conflict Management (CIDCM) at the University of Maryland in March 2012. In his capacity as Assistant Director of CIDCM, he serves as an expert on an assortment of policy-relevant projects. He is also the Director of the Minor in International Development and Conflict Management undergraduate program.

Previously, Dr Backer was a Senior Program Officer at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). His responsibilities included overseeing lessons learned initiatives on Gender, Conflict & Peacebuilding and Peace Education, designing and supervising the Strategic Focus Project Fund, contributing to the administration of the Annual Grant Competition, and managing a portfolio of grantees engaged in conflict resolution and peacebuilding projects around the world.

From 2005-2010, Dr Backer was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Government and a member of the African Studies and International Relations faculty at the College of William & Mary. He also spent time as a Post-Doctoral Scholar at Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (2005-06) and a Visiting Fellow at the University of Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies (2009-10). During the 2004-05 academic year, he was a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of Michigan. Over the years, Dr Backer has taught undergraduate courses in comparative politics, African politics, comparative democratization, conflict and development, human rights, and transitional justice, plus facilitated capacity-building programs for members of civil society in various post-conflict settings.

His specialty is comparative analysis of the choice and impact of transitional justice measures, reflected in studies of the responses of victims of conflict in Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone (as Director of the West Africa Transitional Justice Project), as well as separately in South Africa and Kenya. Other notable research examines topics such as political violence and instability, ethnic conflict, urban crime, development aid, elite dynamics in closed regimes, nongovernmental organizations in authoritarian settings, elections and party systems.

He serves as Co-Editor (with Paul Huth and Ravi Bhavnani) of the Peace and Conflict book series, including the 2014 and 2016 editions. His other publications include articles and book reviews in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, Comparative Political Studies, the Journal of Human Rights, the International Journal of Transitional Justice, Transitional Justice Review, International Politics, Democratization, the Taiwan Journal of Democracy, Global Studies Review, and Complexity, chapters in several edited volumes and conference proceedings, and working papers released by the Santa Fe Institute, the Carter Center, the Afrobarometer Project, and the Oxford Transitional Justice Research Network. In addition, he is co-author of the Constituency-Level Elections Archive (CLEA) and the GeoReferenced Electoral Districts data products.

Dr Backer is a founding Co-Director of CLEA, an original member (since 2006) of the Board of Editors of the International Journal of Transitional Justice, and a Research Associate of the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation. He has been a consultant to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland and the Innovations for Successful Societies program at Princeton University.

His research has been awarded competitive external funding from the US Agency for International Development, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the US Institute of Peace, the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, and the American Political Science Association.

Dr Backer received an MA and PhD in Political Science at the University of Michigan, supported by a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship. Prior to graduate school, he was a Fulbright Scholar in the Department of Political Studies at the University of Cape Town. He also received a BA summa cum laude, majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies (Social Change & the Political Economy) and Economics, from Amherst College.