Carlos Gervasoni

Connections. Encouragement. Friendship. Intellectual support.

That’s what Carlos Gervasoni found during his years at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, where he was a PhD fellow and a dissertation year fellow while earning his PhD in political science.

Since graduating in 2011, he’s become a noted scholar in the field of Latin American politics. And he says his time at Kellogg helped shape both his approach to teaching and the trajectory of his career.

“Kellogg was an exceptional source of intellectual, personal, and financial support when I was at Notre Dame,” he said.

Today, Gervasoni is an associate research professor in the Department of Political Science and International Studies at the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella in Argentina, where he teaches and advises both undergraduate and graduate students.

He recently returned to Kellogg to take part in a panel discussion of his highly-acclaimed new book, Hybrid Regimes Within Democracies: Fiscal Federalism and Subnational Rentier States (Cambridge University Press, 2018), a comprehensive study of democracy and authoritarianism in all the subnational units of Argentina, including a comparison with regions of several other federations. He also met with grad students and collaborated with faculty on various projects during his two-week visit.

Read more about his work and his favorite memories from his time at Kellogg below.

You're an associate professor in Argentina. Describe the research you're doing now. 

I am currently working in four areas. The first follows directly from my recent book on subnational democracy: I am exploring to what extent citizens whose material welfare depends significantly on the state (say, public employees, beneficiaries of conditional cash transfers or recipients of clientelistic goods) are more deferent to rulers, and therefore less likely to oppose them. If this were the case, incumbents in charge of states with large sectors of the population dependent on their budgets would be politically (and electorally) advantaged vis-a-vis the opposition.

Another project related to my research on subnational regimes is the second wave of the Survey of Experts on Provincial Politics, a study I first conducted in 2008 –with the support of Kellogg and the National Science Foundation– to measure subnational democracy in Argentina.

 A third, somewhat related project, is about whether politicians from small subnational units are disproportionally more successful in elections for national executive offices than those from larger units. The puzzle here is to what extent there is for executive positions the same type of over-representation of smaller districts that the literature has documented for the legislatures of many countries, states, and provinces around the world. 

Finally, I am conducting an analysis of the level and determinants of the reliability of the survey items of the Argentine Panel Election Study 2015. The project is a two-wave survey carried out by Noam Lupu, Virginia Oliveros, Luis Schiumerini and myself for the 2015 presidential election in Argentina. (Editor’s note: Lupu is a former visiting fellow, Oliveros is a current visiting fellow, and Schiumerini is a former visiting fellow and current faculty fellow at Kellogg.)

I also co-run, with colleague Javier Zelaznik, the Índice de Confianza en el Gobierno, a monthly index that measures trust in the Argentine government based on nationwide polling.

How did Kellogg help you get to where you are today? 

 Three of my closest advisors and two co-authors were Kellogg faculty fellows, and I also interacted with many visiting fellows and guest speakers. I had conversations that influenced my thinking in important ways with scholars such as Victor Gel'man (a former visiting fellow), Clark Gibson (a distinguished research affiliate and Advisory Board member), Wendy Hunter (a former visiting fellow and Advisory Board member), Margaret Levi, Steve Levitsky (a former visiting fellow), and Kurt Weyland (a former visiting fellow). The fact that they were available to interact with graduate students was a very significant contribution to my training and work.

Kellogg also contributed key financial resources to my research, first in the form of seed money for exploratory fieldwork, and later in the form of a dissertation year fellowship. By the time I went back to Argentina in 2008, my research agenda was quite advanced. I had several articles in the process of publication, and had collected most of the data I needed to write my dissertation. Several universities were interested in hiring me, and I eventually accepted an excellent tenure track, research-oriented position at Universidad Torcuato Di Tella. Such positions are rare in Argentina, and it is clear to me that the quality of the research I had conducted with Kellogg’s support was critical in obtaining one of them.

What's your favorite memory from your time at Kellogg? 

It’s the countless hours I spent discussing aspects of my dissertation and other research projects at the offices of Michael Coppedge (a faculty fellow), Fran Hagopian (a former faculty fellow and former visiting fellow), and Scott Mainwaring (a faculty fellow and Kellogg’s former director). They always made me feel welcome and were invariably available. They were willing to spend their valuable hours helping me with ideas, sharing fair and useful criticism, and generous praise.

And, last but not least, they helped me with the tedious forms and letters to apply for grants and training opportunities. I believe those hours are a big part of what makes Kellogg so special to Notre Dame students who are lucky to be affiliated with it. 

You used to be a grad student looking to professors for insight, and now you're a professor working with students.  What's it like being on the other side? 

It’s one of the best parts of this job. It is amazing to see how, with the right classes, readings and advice, students quickly incorporate skills, develop sophisticated thinking, come up with original ideas, and design research projects of their own.

My experience with my Kellogg advisors helped shape my own style as a professor. Possibly their most important influence was establishing a more "horizontal" relationship with students, in the sense of thinking of them as active intellectual partners rather than passive recipients of knowledge. Advanced undergraduate students and graduate students often have lots of experience, knowledge, and good ideas of their own. They often have technical skills that more senior faculty do not. It seems to me that with only a moderate amount of guidance, students often soar and quickly accomplish great things.