LEONID PEISAKHIN

I am an Assistant Professor of Political Science at New York University - Abu Dhabi. My research examines how political identities and persistent patterns of political behavior are created and manipulated by the state. I study the cultural legacies of historical political institutions, the longue durée legacy of state-sponsored violence, and, as its corollary, the dynamics of post-conflict reconciliation.  I am also interested in good governance, democratization, and the influence of biased media.

 

In a book manuscript, Invisible Boundaries: Cultural Legacies and Long-Term Persistence of Political Identities, I propose that core group identities, defined as the primary source of behavioral queues, are most likely to persist because they are a crucial source of social meaning.  The book project draws on a natural experiment of history that divided homogenous Ukrainian communities between Austrian and Russian empires and examines the roots of the competing notions of Ukrainian national identity and the consequences of the existence of these on present-day political life. I find that late 19th/early 20th century education policies, delivered through churches and schools, gave rise to lasting core group identities that persisted through two world wars, a civil war, and the vagaries of collectivization, and state repression.  Leveraging data from several surveys that I designed and implemented I show how the persistence of these competing notions of what it means to be Ukrainian continues to shape political life in the present by, among other things, influencing vote choice and informing public attitudes toward the ongoing conflict with Russia.  This project illustrates the incredible staying power of cultural identities and advances and tests a theory for why certain attitudes and behaviors persist and others do not. 

 

I am also working on a book manuscript, jointly with Noam Lupu, titled Children of Violence: Victims in the Shadow of Conflict, where we explore why different types of violence have different legacy effects.  The key finding of this project is that victim identities take root most strongly in settings where violence was explicitly targeted against a specific minority, the perpetrator was easily identifiable, and the state has not made efforts to obfuscate the causes and dynamics of violence in the aftermath of conflict.  We show that the staying power of the legacy effects of violence is mediated by family structures.  This book project uses original surveys that we designed and fielded in Cambodia, Crimea, and Guatemala – these cases leverage variation in the nature of violence, family structures, and post-conflict state policies toward the victims and their descendants.

 

My research combines multiple methods including experiments, surveys, ethnography, and archival research.   I have done fieldwork in Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America; the bulk of my work is focused on Eastern Europe.

My work has appeared in journals such as the American Journal of Political Science, British Journal of Political Science, and the Journal of Law and Economics. I hold a Ph.D. in Political Science from Yale University.