Brett J. Kyle
I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science and a Human Rights Initiative Graduate Fellow
at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I focus on political behavior, democracy, and military politics in Latin America.
My dissertation, Recycling Dictators: Ex-Authoritarians in New Democracies, seeks to explain the presence
and electoral performance of former dictators who run for public office. I contend that the interaction of economic challenges,
weak party systems, and deteriorating public security in many states in Latin America during the post-transition period presents
an appealing political environment for ex-authoritarian candidates and helps to explain their success at the polls.
Other current projects investigate human rights and military reform in Latin America.
My work has been published in book chapters and in the journals Armed Forces & Society and Law & Society Review.
When I'm not teaching, reading, or writing, I spend my time running through Madison's green parks, kayaking the beautiful lakes, and shopping its famous Farmers' Market. My winter activities include patiently waiting for spring.
Dissertation & Other Research
Recycling Dictators: Ex-Authoritarians in New Democracies
My dissertation, Recycling Dictators: Ex-Authoritarians in New Democracies, investigates the phenomenon of members of former authoritarian regimes who run for elected office in the democratic era.
Former repressors have asserted themselves in democratic politics, and they have gained support even in the face of their past offenses. These recycled dictators face distinct challenges and opportunities in their electoral campaigns and present a transitioning nation with an array of questions about the past, present, and future of politics in the country.
Despite the wealth of research on democratic consolidation and the concern about new democracies backsliding into semi-authoritarianism, the presence of ex-dictators in political campaigns has not been studied systematically. My dissertation seeks to fill that gap.
By constructing an original dataset of elections in the 12 countries in Latin America that endured military government and experienced third wave democratic transitions, I have identified 71 ex-authoritarian candidacies in presidential elections. Half of all presidential elections in these 12 countries have included at least one candidate associated with the military regime, and a total of eight former military government officials have been democratically elected to the presidency in their respective countries.
I argue that prior democratic experience, party strength, economic challenges, and deteriorating public security in the democratic era shapes the post-transition political environment and helps to explain cross-national and temporal variation in recycled dictator presence in elections and performance at the polls.
Why Militaries Rebel: Military Mobilization in Contemporary Latin America
In a separate project, I investigate the continued use of force or threat of force among militaries in Latin America to affect government policy. While direct military rule has disappeared from the region and coups d'etat have become rare, barracks revolts and saber rattling has continued. Despite trends toward less military involvement in civilian political disagreements (Pérez-Liñán 2007), armed forces have pressed for their own interests through force in contemporary democracies. I argue that these events are best understood through the prism of institutional lobbying, rather than through existing theories of military intervention in politics that focus on the tutelary role of the armed forces. I catalog events of military rebellion in the region since 1980 to develop a new theory of military influence over political decision-making.
The Rise and Fall of Civil Wars
In a project with Scott Straus, we track divergent civil war trends across the globe. At the end of the Cold War, the number of civil wars increased, temporarily, in each region of the world except for Latin America, where a number of conflicts came to a close. We hypothesize that the ideological nature of the Central American wars and the external funding for these proxy battles help to explain the cross-regional variation.
Dictating Justice: Human Rights and Military Courts in Latin America
Andrew G. Reiter and I examine the use of military courts in Latin America to shield armed forces personnel from accountability for human rights abuses in the region. We find that variation in the state of military court reform is the result of the relative balance between military autonomy and the strength of civilian reformers.
Our first article in this research agenda, "Dictating Justice: Human Rights and Military Courts in Latin America," was published in the January 2012 issue of Armed Forces & Society. Our second article, forthcoming in Law & Society Review, investigates the process by which military courts have been reformed in 13 countries in the region. We identify two major pathways of reform--one, unilateral civilian efforts and two, a more collaborative process of civil-military bargaining. We find that military compliance with reform is greater when civilian leadership engages with the military. Unilateral efforts most often alter formal laws but fail to change practices. While successful reform of military court jurisdiction is a positive development for the rule of law, we caution that success through bargaining suggests continued challenges in civilian control of the military.
My teaching fields include Comparative Politics, Latin American Politics, Democratization, Civil-Military Relations, Transitional Justice, and Political Violence.
I have been a Teaching Assistant for a variety of courses at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:
- Latin American Politics, Fall 2007, Prof. Leigh A. Payne
- Transitional Justice, Spring 2008, Prof. Leigh A. Payne
- Introduction to American Politics, Fall 2008, Prof. David Canon; Spring 2009, Prof. Ken Goldstein; Spring 2012, Prof. John Coleman
- Comparative Study of Genocide, Fall 2009, Prof. Scott Straus
- Global Challenges: Introduction to International Studies, Fall 2011, Prof. Stephen Young
I have given guest lectures in the following courses:
Brett J. Kyle Curriculum Vitae
My CV is available for download in PDF format as well as below. For other formats, please contact me via e-mail.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
- PhD Candidate in Political Science (expected completion, 2013)
- Major Fields: Comparative Politics (Latin America) and International Relations
- Minor Field: Political Violence and the Rule of Law
- Dissertation: Recycling Dictators: Ex-Authoritarians in New Democracies
University of Wisconsin-Madison
- M.A. in Political Science (2007)
University of Texas at Austin
- B.A. in Government, with highest honors (2004)
- Government Honors Thesis: Yielding Power: The Transition from Military to Civilian Rule in El Salvador and Guatemala
- Washington Semester Foreign Policy Program (2002)
Honors & Awards
- Mildred Potter Hovland Journal Article Award, Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2012 (for “Militarized Justice in New Democracies: Explaining the Process of Military Court Reform in Latin America,” with Andrew G. Reiter)
- UW-Madison Department of Political Science Summer Initiative Award, 2012
- Vilas Travel Grant, Graduate School, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2011
- Institute of International Education, Fulbright U.S. Student Program, 2011 (Alternate)
- Human Rights Initiative Dissertation Fellowship, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2010
- Vilas Travel Grant, Graduate School, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2009
- Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies Field Research Grant, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2009
- Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship (Portuguese), 2007
- University Fellowship, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2006-2007
- Vilas Award, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2006
- The William Jennings Bryan Award—1st Place Government Honors Senior Thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 2004
Research & Project Experience
- Project Assistant, Scott Straus, Human Rights Initiative, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2010
- Project Assistant, Alexandra Huneeus, School of Law, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2009
- Research Assistant, Versiones Libres project, Leigh A. Payne, Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2008
- Research Assistant, Authoritarian Regime and Transition Type Dataset, Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2008
- Research Associate, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Washington, DC, 2002
- “Militarized Justice in New Democracies: Explaining the Process of Military Court Reform in Latin America.” Law & Society Review (forthcoming 2013), with Andrew G. Reiter.
- “Dictating Justice: Military Courts and Human Rights in Latin America.” Armed Forces and Society 38:1 (2012): 27-48, with Andrew G. Reiter.
- “The Law, Security and Civil Society Freedoms,” in Civil Society, Conflict and Violence, eds. Wolgang Dörner and Regina List (Bloomsbury Academic, 2012), with Mandeep Tiwana.
- “Honduras,” in The Encyclopedia of Transitional Justice, eds. Lavinia Stan and Nadya Nedelsky (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012).
- “National Commissioner for the Protection of Human Rights in Honduras,” in The Encyclopedia of Transitional Justice, eds. Lavinia Stan and Nadya Nedelsky (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012).
- “Justice and the Generals.” Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Vol. 22, Nos. 23-24 (December 17, 2002).
- “Recent Media Extravaganza Revives Immigration Debate.” Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Vol. 22, Nos. 21-22 (December 3, 2002).
- “Uruguay Faces Regional Challenges.” Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Vol. 22, No. 19 (October 22, 2002). [Jovana Garzón, co-author]
- “Statistics & Resources: UNESCO’s Comparative Education Study.” Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Vol. 22, No. 19 (October 22, 2002). [Jovana Garzón, co-author]
Invited Talks & Guest Lectures
- “Roads to Reform: Typologies of Changing Military Courts in Latin America,” with Andrew Reiter, 2011 Annual Meeting of the Law and Society Association, San Francisco, California, 4 June 2011
- “Recycling Dictators: Ex-Regime Candidates in New Democracies,” 69th Annual Midwest Political Science Association National Conference, Chicago, Illinois, 31 March 2011
- “Dictating Justice: Military Courts and Judicial Reform in Latin America,” with Andrew Reiter, 2010 Annual Meeting of the Law and Society Association, Chicago, Illinois, 28 May 2010
- “Why Militaries Rebel: Military Mobilization in Contemporary Latin America,” 2009 International Biennial Conference of the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society, Chicago, Illinois, 25 October 2009
- “Dictating Justice: Military Rule and Judicial Reform in Latin America,” with Andrew Reiter, 67th Annual Midwest Political Science Association National Conference, Chicago, Illinois, 2 April 2009
- “Recycling Dictators: Authoritarian Leaders and Democratic Integration,” 66th Annual Midwest Political Science Association National Conference, Chicago, Illinois, 3 April 2008
- “Causes for Civil War and Failed Revolution in El Salvador,” 24th Annual Institute of Latin American Studies Student Association Conference, Austin, Texas, 14 February 2004
- “Transitional Justice: Trials and Truth Commissions,” presentation for Political Science 617: Comparative Legal Institutions, 13 December 2010
- “Why do States Abuse Human Rights?” presentation for Political Science 317: The Politics of Human Rights, 9 April 2010
- “Recycling Dictators: The Persistence of Authoritarian Elites in New Democracies,” presentation for University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Political Science 3rd-year research presentation, 13 March 2009
- “Chile: The Pinochet Dictatorship,” presentation for Political Science 630: Latin American Politics, 3 March 2009
- “Lustration and Public Vetting,” presentation for Political Science 401: Transitional Justice, 15 April 2008
- “Guatemala: Violence and Human Rights & Citizenship and Equality,” presentation for Political Science 630: Latin American Politics, 29 November 2007
- Teaching Assistant, International Studies, 101—Global Challenges: An Introduction to International Studies, Professor Stephen Young, Fall 2011 (4 sections of 20 students)
- Teaching Assistant, Political Science 318—Comparative Study of Genocide, Professor Scott Straus, Fall 2009 (4 sections of 18 students)
- Teaching Assistant, Political Science 104—Introduction to American Politics, Professor Ken Goldstein, Spring 2009 (Head TA, 4 sections of 18 students)
- Teaching Assistant, Political Science 104—Introduction to American Politics, Professor David Canon, Fall 2008 (4 sections of 18 students)
- Teaching Assistant, Political Science 401—Transitional Justice, Professor Leigh Payne, Spring 2008 (non-section, 75 students)
- Teaching Assistant, Political Science 630—Latin American Politics, Professor Leigh Payne, Fall 2007 (4 sections of 18 students)
- Comparative Politics
- Latin American Politics
- Civil-Military Relations
- Transitional Justice
- Political Violence
- “Organizing a Dissertation,” presentation for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Political Science Graduate Association, 8 December 2011
- Comparative Politics Search Committee, Fall 2010
- “Grading,” presentation for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Political Science Department Teaching Assistants, 8 October 2010
- “Prelim preparation,” presentation for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Political Science Graduate Association, 1 May 2009
Language and Methodological Skills
- Spanish – Advanced
- Portuguese – Basic
- Statistical Inference, Qualitative Research Design, Questionnaire Design
- American Political Science Association
- Midwest Political Science Association
- Law and Society Association
- International Studies Association
- Latin American Studies Association
- Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society