Ezequiel González Ocantos

Ezequiel González Ocantos

(Ph.D. (Notre Dame); MPhil, BA Hons (Cambridge))

Associate Professor in the Qualitative Study of Comparative Political Institutions; Professorial Fellow, Nuffield College
Comparative Politics and Government, Research Methods
Nuffield College
Office Address:
E9, Nuffield College

I'm an Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations, and a Professorial Fellow of Nuffield College. I am interested in understanding the impact of international human rights law in domestic judicial politics. My book "Shifting Legal Visions: Judicial Change and Human Rights Trials in Latin America" (Cambridge University Press) develops a theory of judicial behavior inspired by sociological institutionalism to explain why some Latin American judiciaries chose to decisively punish those responsible for serious human rights violations perpetrated during dictatorships and armed conflicts. I emphasize the enabling and empowering effect of the diffusion of international legal ideas by domestic litigants. The book won the 2017 C. Herman Pritchett Best Book Award from the Law and Courts Section of the American Political Science Association, and the 2017 Donna Lee Van Cott Best Book Award from the Political Institutions Section of the Latin American Studies Association. Part of this research also appeared in Comparative Politics (July 2014) in an article entitled "Persuade Them or Oust Them: Crafting Judicial Change and Transitional Justice in Argentina.” I've also written about the impact of human rights trials on public opinion in an article published by The International Journal of Human Rights

I am currently working on a second book project that examines the diffusion of the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights among Latin American high courts. The goal is to identify the domestic political conditions under which international courts find reliable partners among domestic judges, and trace the processes whereby international jurisprudence becomes a routine reference point for these judges when they seek to justify their decisions. In some contexts, the use of foreign legal instruments and ideas empowers courts. In particular, international human rights law often gives them a stronger voice in politically sensitive debates over the content and reach of fundamental rights. I am in the process of completing a database that documents trends in the citation of Inter-American Court precedents by 13 Supreme and Constitutional Courts since 1994. The project will combine this information with in-depth case studies of several Latin American high courts based on interviews with key judicial actors.

I am also part of a research team that studies the political economy of vote buying and intimidation during electoral campaigns. So far we have fielded original post electoral surveys in 12 countries across the Americas in order to explore the extent of these practices, what citizens think about them, and who gets targeted by parties. Some of our findings appeared in two articles published in the American Journal of Political Science, "Vote Buying and Social Desirability Bias: Experimental Evidence from Nicaragua" (January 2012) and "The Conditionality of Vote Buying Norms: Experimental Evidence from Latin America" (January 2014), in a paper in Comparative Political Studies (July 2015), and in a forthcoming piece in the Latin American Research Review.

I obtained my Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame in 2012. My thesis won APSA's 2013 Edward S. Corwin Award for the best doctoral dissertation in the field of Public Law. Before coming to Oxford I was an Assistant Professor at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE) in Mexico City.​

Curriculum vitae: Download Gonzalezocantos Cv (128.9KB)

Comparative Judicial Politics

Human Rights

Transitional Justice

The Interamerican System of Human Rights

Comparative Politics of Latin America

Political Economy of Clientelism

Qualitative Methods in Political Science

Human rights Constitutions and Government Democracy and Democratisation Elections Institutions and organisations

Advanced Qualitative Methods

Comparative Government


I am happy to supervise students interested in comparative judicial politics, human rights, electoral corruption, qualitative methods and Latin American politics



2016. "Shifting Legal Visions: Judicial Change and Human Rights Trials in Latin America" (Cambridge Studies in Law and Society, Cambridge University Press)

Winner of the 2017 H. Pritchett Best Book Award, American Political Science Association, Law and Courts Section

Winner of the 2017 Donna Lee Van Cott Best Book Award, Latin American Studies Association, Political Institutions Section

Peer-reviewed articles:

Forthcoming. "Remittances and Vote Buying: Experimental Evidence from El Salvador," in Latin American Research Review (with Chad Kiewiet de Jonge and Covadonga Meseguer)

2016. "Evaluations of Human Rights Trials and Trust in Judicial Institutions: Evidence from Fujimori’s Trial in Peru," in The International Journal of Human Rights, 20(4): 445-470

2015. "Legitimacy Buying: The Dynamics of Clientelism in the Face of Legitimacy Challenges," in Comparative Political Studies, 48(9):1127-1158 (with Chad Kiewiet de Jonge and David Nickerson)

2014. "Persuade Them or Oust Them: Crafting Judicial Change and Transitional Justice in Argentina," in Comparative Politics, 46(4):279-298

2014. "The Conditionality of Vote Buying Norms: Experimental Evidence from Latin America," in American Journal of Political Science, 58(1):197-211 (with Chad Kiewiet de Jonge and David Nickerson)

2012. "Vote Buying and Social Desirability Bias: Experimental Evidence from Nigaragua," in American Journal of Political Science, 56(1):202-217 (with Chad Kiewiet de Jonge, Carlos Melendez, Javier Osorio and David Nickerson)

Book chapters:

Forthcoming. “Political Clientelism,” in W. Outhwaite & S. Turner eds. The SAGE Handbook of Political Sociology. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE (with Paula Muñoz)

2015. “Dependencia y Autonomía,” in M. D’Alessandro & G. Ippolito-O’Donnell eds. La ciencia política de Guillermo O’Donnell. Buenos Aires, Argentina: EUDEBA

2010. “Crisis de gobernabilidad en América Latina: Juegos verticales y horizontales,” in F. Barrero & S. Jost eds. Estabilidad democrática en América Latina: Equilibrio de poderes, perspectivas teóricas. Bogotá, Colombia: Fondo Editorial de la Universidad Sergio Arboleda. (with Carlos Meléndez)

Commissioned academic reports:

2012. Aproximación a las percepciones de la ciudadanía sobre la compra de votos y la intimidación de votantes en el régimen político guatemalteco. Cdad. de Guatemala, Guatemala: National Democratic Institute. (with Carlos Meléndez, Chad Kiewiet de Jonge, Javier Osorio and David Nickerson)

Working papers:

“International Courts as Communicative Entrepreneurs: Transjudicial Dialogue in the Inter-American System of Human Rights” (R&R)

"Why do national courts rely on international law? A Computerized Text Analysis of the Rulings of Colombia’s Constitutional Court" (with Niels Goet)

"Public Reactions to the UK Supreme Court's Brexit Decision: Evidence from an Online Survey Experiment" (with Elias Dinas)

“Creating Something Out of Nothing: Process Tracing With Missing Data” (with Jody LaPorte)

“Carrots and Sticks: Experimental Evidence of Vote Buying and Voter Intimidation in Guatemala” (with Carlos Meléndez, Chad Kiewiet de Jonge, Javier Osorio and David Nickerson)


Selected Publications