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Prof. dr. W.J. (Ward) Berenschot

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
Programme group: Moving Matters: People, Goods, Power and Ideas
Photographer: Dirk Gillissen

Visiting address
  • Nieuwe Achtergracht 166
Postal address
  • Postbus 15509
    1001 NA Amsterdam
Contact details
  • Profile

    Ward Berenschot is a professor in comparative political anthropology at the University of Amsterdam and a senior researcher at KITLV. Employing a combination of up-close ethnographic fieldwork with quantitative techniques to study politics in India and Indonesia, his research focuses on the role of money and informality in election campaigns, while a second field of research concerns the character of citizenship and civil society in these countries. He is the author of Riot Politics: Hindu-Muslim Violence and the Indian State (Colombia University Press 2011) and Democracy for Sale: Elections, Clientelism and the State in Indonesia (with Edward Aspinall, Cornell University Press 2019) as well as several articles and on ethnic violence, governance, citizenship and legal aid. He has been engaged in efforts to strengthen legal aid in Indonesia, and is currently working on a book and a documentary on conflicts between palm oil companies and rural Indonesians. He teaches courses on political economy, political anthropology and historical comparative sociology at Leiden University and the University of Amsterdam.

    Expertise and research fields

    • Clientelism
    • Local Democracy
    • Citizenship
    • Informality
    • Access to Justice
    • Land Conflicts
    • Political Finance
  • Research

    Current research projects

    His current research focuses on three main topics: land conflicts, campaign finance, and public opinion manipulation through social media.  He coordinates a research collaboration (with Wageningen University and Universitas Andalas) that studies the activism of rural Indonesians against palm oil companies. With researchers at the University of Amsterdam and Universitas Diponegoro Berenschot works on a research project that studies how online ‘buzzers’ are used to manipulate public opinion in Indonesia. With Australitian National University he works on a project on village governance in Southeast Asia. 

    Research grants & honours

    • 2019 – 2023  NWO grant for ‘Palm Oil conflicts and access to Justice in Indonesia
    • 2022 – 2025  KNAW grant for ‘Cybertroops and computational propaganda in Southeast Asia
    • 2018               Visiting Fellowship, Yale University
    • 2013 – 2016  VENI scholarship, Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) for ‘Shades of Clientelism: A Comparative Study of Indonesia’s Patronage Democracy’
    • 2013 – 2018  KNAW SPIN grant for ‘From Clients to Citizens? Emerging Citizenship in Democratising Indonesia

    Current collaborations

    Andalas University, Wageningen University, Australian National University as well as several NGOs in Indonesia

  • Teaching & PhD Supervision


    Berenschot teaches courses on political economy, political anthropology and historical comparative sociology at Leiden University and the University of Amsterdam.

    PhD supervison

    Berenschot supervises four Phd students.

  • Publications


    • Afrizal, A., Hospes, O., Berenschot, W. J., Dhiaulhaq, A., Adriana, R., & Poetry, E. (2023). Unequal access to justice: an evaluation of RSPO’s capacity to resolve palm oil conflicts in Indonesia. Agriculture and human values, 40, 291-304. Advance online publication.
    • Berenschot, W., Dhiaulhaq, A., & Deviane, A. (2023). Local brokerage and international leverage: NGOs and land conflicts in Indonesia. Journal of International Development, 35(3), 505-520. Advance online publication.




    • Berenschot, W. J., & Bagchi, S. (2020). Comparing Brokers in India: Informal Networks and Access to Public Services in Bihar and Gujarat. Journal of Contemporary Asia, 50, 457-477.


    • Berenschot, W. J. (2019). Informal democratization: brokers, access to public services and democratic accountability in Indonesia and India. Democratization, 26(2), 208-224.
    • Berenschot, W. J. (2019). Patterned pogroms: Patronage networks as infrastructure for electoral violence in India and Indonesia. Journal of Peace Research, 57(1), 171-184.
    • Berenschot, W. J., & Aspinall, E. (2019). How clientelism varies: comparing patronage democracies. Democratization, 27(1), 1-19.
    • Berenschot, W. J., & Mulder, P. (2019). Explaining regional variation in local governance: Clientelism and state-dependency in Indonesia. World Development, 122, 233-244.
    • Berenschot, W., & van Klinken, G. (Eds.) (2019). Citizenship in Indonesia: Perjuangan atas Hak, Identitas, dan Partisipasi. Yayasan Pustaka Obor Indonesia. [details]



    • Berenschot, W., Schulte Nordholt, H., & Bakker, L. (2017). Introduction: Citizenship and Democratization in Postcolonial Southeast Asia. In W. Berenschot, H. Schulte Nordtholt, & L. Bakker (Eds.), Citizenship and Democratization in Southeast Asia (pp. 1-30). (Social, Economic and Political Studies of the Middle East and Asia; Vol. 115). Brill. [details]





    • van Klinken, G., & Berenschot, W. (Eds.) (2016). In Search of Middle Indonesia: kelas menengah di kota-kota menengah. KITLV-Jakarta dan Yayasan Pustaka Obor Indonesia. [details]


    • van Klinken, G., & Berenschot, W. (2014). In Search of Middle Indonesia: middle classes in provincial towns. (Verhandelingen van het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde; Vol. 292), (Power and place in Southeast Asia; Vol. 4). Brill. [details]


    • Berenschot, W., & Schijf, H. (2009). Etnisch geweld: groepsconflict in de schaduw van de staat. (Mens en maatschappij. Boekaflevering; No. jg. 84). Amsterdam University Press. [details]


    • Berenschot, W. J. (2006). The Hifi People vs the Cheap People: Class Divisions and Ethnic Conflict in Bombay, India. In A. Zwaan, & M. de Keizer (Eds.), Politiek geweld: Etnisch conflict, oorlog en genocide in de twintigste eeuw (NIOD Jaarboek; No. 16). Walburg Pers.


    • Berenschot, W. (2021). The informality trap: Democracy against governance in Asia. [details]

    Media appearance

    Talk / presentation

    • Sastramidjaja, Y. (speaker), Berenschot, W. (speaker) & Wijayanto, (speaker) (29-6-2022). Social Media Propaganda and Public Opinion Manipulation in Southeast Asia: A Comparative Analysis., EuroSEAS Paris 2022, Paris.
    • Berenschot, W. (speaker) (31-10-2021). The informality Trap: Democracy against Governance in Indonesia, 2nd APSSI International Conference, Universitas Brawijaya.
    • Berenschot, W. (speaker) (2-10-2021). The informality Trap: Democracy against Governance, Indonesia Focus Conference, University of Pittsburgh.
    • van Klinken, G. A. (speaker) & Berenschot, W. J. (speaker) (25-9-2015). Roundtable on governance - what political anthropologists of Asia and Africa can contribute, Inaugural and first biennial conference of the association for Asian studies in Africa (A-Asia), Accra.
    • Berenschot, W. J. (speaker) (2008). Moneypower and Musclepower in a Gujarati Locality: On the Usefulness of Goondas in Indian Politics., ASSR working paper presentation, Amsterdam.
    • Berenschot, W. J. (speaker) (30-6-2006). The Machinations of municipal elections in Ahmedabad, India, Paper presented at the ‘19th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies, Leiden.


    • Febriany, V. (2023). Can authoritarianism be good for women? Community-based health care, citizenship, and democracy in Indonesia. [Thesis, fully internal, Universiteit van Amsterdam]. [details]



    • Berenschot, W. J. (2022). Palm Oil Conflicts in Indonesia - dataset of 150 Company-community conflicts. DANS Data Station Social Sciences and Humanities.
    This list of publications is extracted from the UvA-Current Research Information System. Questions? Ask the library or the Pure staff of your faculty / institute. Log in to Pure to edit your publications. Log in to Personal Page Publication Selection tool to manage the visibility of your publications on this list.
  • Ancillary activities
    No ancillary activities