Stellenbosch University | Political Science


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The Department of Political Science is a dynamic, research-driven unit with a focus on the political challenges which South Africa and the broader African continent must face in a globalising world. Through comprehensive research programmes, the department has developed expertise in a wide spectrum of international, African and domestic politics. Pressing issues such as poverty, development, globalisation and inequality are addressed at the under- and postgraduate levels. The department provides high-level theoretical and analytical training in a variety of subfields of Political Science, with particular focus on political risk analysis, public policy analysis, political behaviour and survey research, foreign policy analysis, global governance, and conflict and peace studies in Africa. Experts from practice and international universities are frequently involved in the presentation of modules.

New Book

This book analyses the first two years of South Africa’s response to the COVID-19 epidemic, from its emergence in early 2020. Drawing on the perspectives of a range of public health experts, economists and other social scientists, and development practitioners, this book argues that understanding this early response will be essential to moderate and improve future policy thinking around health governance and epidemic readiness. This book provides a systemic analysis of not only the epidemiolo.

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Prof James L. Gibson, Extraordinary Professor in Political Science at Stellenbosch University and member of ASAF honoured with numerous awards

Prof James L. Gibson, Sidney W Souers Professor of Government at Washington University in St Louis, USA, and extraordinary professor in the Department of Political Science at Stellenbosch University has received numerous prestigious awards and rankings for his research in the field of Political Psychology in the last couple of years.
In 2018 Prof Gibson was ranked first in terms of the impact of his research and first with articles published in top publications, using a constructed Google measure of research productivity.  This is an extraordinary    achievement given the stiff competition of thousands of political scientists in the USA alone. In 2022, in’s ranking of the top 1000 political scientists in Law and Political Science Prof Gibson was ranked number 35 in the world and number 23 in the USA.
Prof Gibson, who is a prolific scholar, has recently received the highly prestigious Harold Lasswell Award for Outstanding Scientific Accomplishment in Political Psychology that goes to an individual deemed to have made a distinguished scientific contribution in the field of political psychology.  In 2011 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award for the Law and Courts Section of the American Political Science Association, honouring a distinguished career of scholarly achievement.  Over his career Prof Gibson has been recognized by five different political science subfields – that of (1) comparative politics, (2) race and ethnicity politics,(3) political organizations and parties, (4) law and courts, and (5) state politics and policy.
In 2022. he and his co-author Prof Michael J Nelson (Pennsylvania State University) received the C. Hermann Pritchett Book Award for their book “Judging Inequality: State Supreme Courts and the Inequality Crisis” (Russell Sage Foundation, 2021). The book was also recognized with the Virginia Gray Book Award (for the best political science book published on the subject of U.S. state politics or policy in the preceding three calendar years).
Prof Gibson is a collaborator of Prof Amanda Gouws, SARChI Chair in Gender Politics in the Department of Political Science.  They have been collaborating since 1992.  Their co-authored book “Overcoming Intolerance in South Africa: Experiments in Democratic Persuasion” (Cambridge University Press, 2003) received the prestigious Alexander George Book Award for best book in Political Psychology in 2003.  This book using vignette methodology attempted to determine if attitudes of intolerance could be changed to tolerance and made an important contribution to this body of scholarship.  Prof Gibson wrote two more books on South Africa, making it a trilogy –  “Overcoming Apartheid: Can Truth Reconcile a Divided Nation” (Russell Sage Foundation, 2004) and “Overcoming Historical Injustice: Land Reconciliation in South Africa” (Cambridge University Press, 2009).  These three books make a unique contribution to the field of political psychology in South Africa that is still in its infancy. The trilogy is highly cited, with “Overcoming Apartheid” being widely regarded as the definitive academic analysis of South Africa’s truth and reconciliation process.
Currently Gibson and Gouws are collaborating on a project to determine which variables contribute to the normalization of gender-based violence, using vignette methodology embedded in survey research.  Their latest paper, with the title “Toward an understanding of the normalization of gender-based violence: accepted by exceptions?,” was recently listed on the SSRN’s pre-publication site as being in the top ten downloads.
Prof Gibson is a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAF).

Stellenbosch University’s Department of Political Science and Stellenbosch University International invite you to join the webinar: Closing the gender gap in economic participation: Perspectives from Japan and South Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa’s liberty deficit: can civil society help fill the gap?


There is something inherent in the idea of democracy that invokes expectations of valuing human dignity and thus freedoms. These include freedom of association, thought, belief, religion and speech, and freedom from government abuse.

Contemporary comparative politics scholars Christian Welzel and Ronald Inglehart argue that: “liberal democracy is a manifestation of human freedom.”

Forthcoming book on Policing by Dr Guy Lamb

Dr Derica Lambrechts and Dr Ubanesia Adams-Jack host a short course that focuses on policy analysis and political risk analysis. Recently, we were approached by an Africa-focused strategic advisory firm with offices across the continent, to tailor the short course for their staff. The course is presented over the duration of four weeks.

Scarlett Cornelissen is a recipient of the 2021 Japan Foreign Minister’s Commendation. The Commendations are awarded by the Japanese government to individuals and groups with “outstanding achievements in international fields” in acknowledgement of their contribution to international relations. Scarlett received the award for “the promotion of mutual understanding between Japan and the Republic of South Africa.”

Dr Guy Lamb was recently quoted in the Washington Post

Prof Scarlett Cornelissen took part in a Workshop organised by the Italian Institute for International Political Studies in Milan
Pathways to Recovery in Post-Pandemic Asia