Rachel Schwartz is an assistant professor of international and area studies at the University of Oklahoma whose research focuses on the legacies of civil war, corruption, postwar reconstruction, and human rights in Central America.
Her book, Undermining the State from Within: The Institutional Legacies of Civil War in Central America, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2023. It pulls back the curtain on the counterinsurgent state to better understand how conflict dynamics affect state institutions and continue to shape political and economic development in the postwar period. Drawing on unique archival and interview data from war and postwar Guatemala and Nicaragua, the book illuminates how counterinsurgent actors, under the pretext of combatting an insurgent threat, introduce alternative rules within state institutions, which undermine core activities like tax collection, public security provision, and property administration in the longer-term. In so doing, this book rethinks the relationship between war and state formation, challenges existing scholarly and policy approaches to peacebuilding and post-conflict institutional reform and contributes a new understanding of what civil war leaves behind in an institutional sense.
Schwartz's dissertation, on which the book is based, was awarded the 2020 Gabriel A. Almond Prize for the Best Dissertation in Comparative Politics from the American Political Science Association (APSA). Her research has been published or is forthcoming in the Journal of Peace Research, Journal of Global Security Studies, Polity, Latin American Politics & Society, Studies in Comparative International Development, Small Wars and Insurgencies, Revista de Ciencia Política, Qualitative and Multi-Methods Research, and in outlets like The New York Times, Democracy Paradox, Washington Post's Monkey Cage blog, NACLA Report on the Americas, Americas Quarterly, and World Politics Review.
She holds a PhD in political science from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Inter-American Policy and Research (CIPR) at Tulane University.