Allison Spencer Hartnett | Student | Profiles
Allison Spencer Hartnett

Ms Allison Spencer Hartnett

Research topic:
Redistribution Under Autocracy: Land Reform and Regime Durability in MENA

Research Themes:
Democracy and Democratisation Statebuilding Political Economy Comparative Politics and Government  Political economy and international political economy 

Academic Profile

I'm a predoctoral research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center where I work in the Middle East Initiative. doctoral candidate at Corpus Christi College working under the supervision of Prof. David Rueda and Dr. Adeel Malik.

My research interests include inequality and redistribution, institutional change, the political economy of development, authoritarian politics, and the Middle East and North Africa. I am particularly interested in Jordan and Iraq have conducted fieldwork in Jordan, Egypt, and Morocco.

My dissertation, Redistributive Authoritarianism: Land Reform, Local Order, and Regime Survival in the Middle East and North Africa, contributes a new understanding of redistribution under authoritarianism, and challenges prevailing theories about the positive relationship between redistribution and regime survival. I develop and test a theoretical framework for understanding regimes’ incentives to redistribute land, highlighting the trade-offs associated with different land reform strategies. The dissertation presents qualitative and quantitative evidence to show that stable and unstable MENA regimes consistently diverge over patterns of land redistribution. The first half of the dissertation documents the colonial roots of redistributive conflict, and uses large-N quantitative analysis to show how colonial legacies in MENA constrained regimes’ post-independence land redistribution strategies. Based on an original cross-country data set, my empirical findings suggest that radical, elite-targeted land redistribution occurs when the regime inherits an unpopular absentee landed elite from colonial rule on one hand, and a rising urban professional elite demanding reform on the other. In the second half of the dissertation, I process trace these mechanisms using detailed case studies of Jordan and Iraq, where I draw on subnational survey and observational data, as well as evidence from over 80 elite interviews, political biographies, government documents, and other primary-source Arabic material gathered during eighteen months of fieldwork in Jordan, the UK and the United States. 

I hold an MPhil in Modern Middle Eastern Studies (2013) from St. Antony's College, University of Oxford and a BA from Boston University (2009). Both my MPhil and BA dissertations were awarded distinction by their respective departments. My professional experience includes consultancy work on fragile states and rural economies for organizations such as the UK Department for International Development.

Teaching specialism, interests and experience

All courses were taught at the University of Oxford unless otherwise noted. My teaching was awarded the "Best Postgraduate Teacher" award by the Oxford University Student Union in 2017. This distinction was awarded on the basis of student nominations and decided by a committee of university students and staff.


206 Politics in Europe - tutorials (2017)

211 Politics in the Middle East - tutorials, revision classes, Final Honour School exam marking (2013-present)

226 Quantitative Methods in Politics and Sociology - tutorials, revision classes (2014 - 2015)



Political Economy of Rural Spaces in MENA - seminar co-organized with Dr. Carol Palmer at the Centre for British Research in the Levant, Amman, Jordan (Autumn 2016)


Teaching Interests

Democratization, Political Economy of Inequality and Redistribution, Middle Eastern Politics, Quantitative Methods


2017-2018 Belfer Center Middle East Initiative Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

2017-2018 ACOR-CAORC Fellowship, Amman, Jordan (13,900 USD)

2017 Best Postgraduate Teacher, Oxford University Student Union

2016 Centre for British Research in the Levant Fellowship, Amman, Jordan (7000 GBP)

2015 Writing-Up Grant for Dissertation Development, Department of Politics, Oxford (1500 GBP)

2014 Mellon-Chester Scholarship for Field Research, Department of Politics, Oxford (800 GBP)

2013-2015 Junior Deanship, Keble College, Oxford

2013-2015 A.E. Haigh Merit Studentship, Corpus Christi College and Department of Politics and International Relations, Oxford (24,000 GBP)

2013 Stone Family Foundation Professional Development Grant (2,500 GBP)

2012 Carr-Stahl Fieldwork Grant, St. Antony’s College, Oxford (500 GBP)

2011 Jordan Fulbright ETA Fellowship, Jordan (declined to attend University of Oxford)

2009 US Department of State Critical Language Scholarship Advanced Arabic, Jordan (8,000 USD)

2009 Richard E. Katz Prize in Religion, Boston University (1000 USD)

2005-2009 University Merit Scholarship, Boston University (half-tuition scholarship)


Article Manuscripts Under Review

Hartnett, A. and A. Gard-Murray. “European Union Funding and Sub-National Euroscepticism: The Polish Puzzle.”

Hartnett, A. “Land reform and regime survival in the Middle East and North Africa.”

Encyclopedia Entries

2011 Hartnett, A.S.. Entries for Energy Policy in Egypt, Jordan, Libya, and Qatar. Encyclopedia of

Energy. Golson Media: Croton-on-Hudson, New York.

Book Reviews

2014 Hartnett, A. Review of Globalization & Social Movements: Islamism, Feminism and Social Justice,

2nd ed. by Valentine Moghadam. St. Antony's International Review 10, No. 1 (May 2014): 135-37.

Working Papers

“In the shadows? Informal enterprise and the state in Jordan” with Kristin Fabbe and Steve Monroe

“The colonial origins of state repression in MENA” with Elizabeth Nugent and Nicholas Lotito.

Works in Progress

“Economic and Social Development in the Middle East,” with Prof. Melani Cammett and Gabriel Koehler-Derrick

“Becoming Jordanian: development and citizenship in rural Jordan” with Carol Palmer.

Propaganda and authoritarian legitimation in Nasser's Egypt” with Noa Schonmann.

Policy Papers

2016 Wilson, G and Hartnett, A. UK Stabilisation Guidance for the Stabilisation Unit. United Kingdom

Department for International Development.

2014 Hartnett, A. Protest, Unrest and State-Society Relations. International Peace Institute.

Conference Papers and Presentations

Selected Invited Talks


The Future of Politics, Corpus Christi College, Oxford Quincentenary Series, Oxford, UK. 5 May.

Infrastructural Power and Domestic Resource Conflict in the Levant, Columbia University Middle East Research Center, Amman, Jordan. 7 January.


The Political Economy of Border Lands: Jordan, Syria, Palestine and Israel's Resource CurseColumbia University Middle East Research Center, Amman, Jordan. 7 November.

Land Redistribution and Political Stability in the Middle East, Nottingham Trent University. 8 April.


Selected Conference Presentations


The rural Right and Eurosceptic economic voting in Poland (with Alexander Gard-Murray), Midwest Political Science Association Meeting, Chicago, IL. 6-9 April.

Pre-state institutions, sub-state identity and local-national clientelism in Jordan, Midwest Political Science Association Meeting, Chicago, IL. 6-9 April.

Colonial Legacies, Landed Elites and Regime Survival in MENA, New Politics of Authoritarianism Conference, University of Oxford, 15 March.



Legitimate but not lasting: ruling coalitions and redistribution in Jordan and Iraq, Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting, Boston, MA. November.

Land redistribution and autocratic regime durability in MENA, American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA. 1-4 September.

Growing power: agricultural endowments and the roots of authoritarian persistence in MENA, Midwest Political Science Association Meeting, Chicago, IL. 7-10 April.



Elite balancing and stakeholder dynamics in Jordanian agrarian reform, Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting, Washington, DC. 22-25 November.

Informality and Jordanian hydropolitics under King Abdullah II, International Society for New Institutional Economics Annual Meeting, Duke University, Durham, NC. 19 June.