I am associate professor of political science at the University of Amsterdam. Before coming to Amsterdam, I obtained my PhD from Leiden University and I was a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for US-Mexican Studies at the University of California, San Diego. My research focuses on subnational political institutions, state capacity, citizenship and democracy. I am also interested in multi-method research, and specificially in developing new approaches for integrating geo-spatial analysis and qualitative methods.
My dissertation was nominated for the annual thesis award of the Dutch Political Science Association (NKWP) and in 2009, I received the Rudolf Wildenmann Prize of the European Consortium for Political Research. I am one of the co-editors of the journal Regional and Federal Studies.
In 2020, I received an ERC Starting Grant for CitizenGap, a project that analyzes the politics of birth registration. My previous research has been funded by a Marie Curie Global Fellowship.
Legal Identity for All?
Research Project led by Imke Harbers (PI), funded by an ERC Starting Grant (€ 1.5 million), 2021-2026
Although we often think of undocumented persons as migrants or non-citizens, about one in seven people across the globe lack documents such as birth certificates, ID cards or passports to prove their legal identity, and thus their status as citizens in their own country. This gap between citizens with and without state-recognized documents can be just as consequential as the distinction between citizens and non-citizens.
Existing approaches tend to portray the citizenship gap – that is the difference between legal status and the ability of citizens to document their claim to this status – as the apolitical by-product of deficiencies in governance. The CitizenGap project aims to change how scholars and policy-makers think about achieving one of the key targets of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals “By 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration” by developing a novel political understanding.
The project pursues two main questions: (1) How and why do states invest in civil registration? (2) How and why do citizens decide to obtain documents? To understand why millions of citizens are undocumented, it is crucial to remember that citizenship is not only a legal status, but first and foremost a political relationship between states and the populations they govern. CitizenGap advances a strategic theory that seriously considers the incentives of states and citizens in the politics of civil registration. Empirically, the project contributes a comprehensive, cross-national measure that captures the number and characteristics of undocumented citizens, including those at risk of having their citizenship status questioned. The project also analyzes the origins and nature of the citizenship gap through in-depth country studies.
Additional information about the project can be found on the project website: www.citizengap.org.