Jessica  Steinberg

Jessica Steinberg

Assistant Professor, International Studies

Adjunct Professor, Political Science


  • Ph.D., Political Science, University of Michigan, 2014
  • M.A., Political Science, University of Michigan, 2011
  • B.A., Stanford University, 2006


My research agenda centers on understanding strategic dynamics in regions of limited state presence. For many groups, the relevant institution is not the government, but a firm, a charity or a rebel group. The interaction among this third actor, the population, and the government yields puzzling outcomes, ranging from legitimate authority of non-state actors, to tacit agreements between supposed enemies, such as local governments and rebel groups. To what extent do these political actors rely on other, non-state actors to perform the functions that sustain legitimacy?

These questions have led me to study regions of natural resource extraction, conflict, and aid provision. In my earlier work, I focused on forested regions, investigating timber firm behavior in the Republic of Congo through the development and analysis of a GIS dataset of forest concessions to understand variation in local investment by firms. I'm particularly interested in when states willingly concede sovereignty. In my dissertation, I answered this question by examining the strategic interactions between a government, firm and local population in regions of natural resource extraction, where we would most expect states to maximize their presence. I use mixed methods, including game theory, comparative case study, and analysis of a GIS dataset to answer these questions. I have conducted field work in Congo-Brazzaville, DRC, Zambia, and Mozambique. I am also interested in how we construct narratives of contested regions. As a result, I am evaluating the role of reporting bias in a geo-spatial dataset of the Naxalite conflict in India to understand the nature and extent of reporting bias by government and rebel forces.