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Department of Sociology and Anthropology
University of Mississippi

Miguel Centellas

Biography | Research | Publications | CV | Personal Website

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Miguel Centellas

Miguel Centellas

Croft Instructional Associate Professor of Sociology & International Studies
Ph.D, Western Michigan University
Latin America, Political Sociology, Comparative Democracy, Methods
Lamar Hall 524  |  662-916-3605

Office Hours
By appointment

Soc 101 Introductory Sociology
Soc 466 Political Sociology

Inst 207 Latin American Studies
Inst 312 Topics in European Studies: Modern Iberian Politics
Inst 314 Topics in Latin American Studies: Heroes & Villains: Populism in Latin America
Inst 314 Topics in Latin American Studies: Evaluating Democracy in Latin America
Inst 381 Research Methods for International Studies
Inst 413 Research in Latin American Studies: Politics & Culture of the Andes (taught in Bolivia; cross-listed as Anth 392)


My interest in Bolivian politics is perhaps natural. Born in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, during the last years of the Banzer dictatorship, most of my life coincided with Bolivia’s democratization process. Yet I saw most of this from afar: My family immigrated to Saginaw, Michigan, when I was almost ten. But during periodic visits back, I was fascinated by the social changes brought on by democracy (and neoliberal economic reforms).

I graduated from Central Michigan University in 1997, with dual majors in Political Science and History with a minor in Latin American Studies, and earned a Ph.D. in Political Science from Western Michigan University in 2007. In 2003, I was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship for dissertation fieldwork in Bolivia. I arrived in Bolivia to do my fieldwork in September 2003, just as the “gas war” that toppled then-president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada was escalating. During the following ten months, I witnessed radical and rapid political and social changes that forced me to revise my entire dissertation project. In 2006 I was named a Graduate Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. While completing my dissertation, I accepted a visiting professorship of Latin American Politics at Dickinson College. I first arrived in Oxford, Mississippi, in 2009 as a Croft visiting professor. I was happy to return to the University of Mississippi in 2015.


Although my PhD is in comparative politics, I trained broadly in political sociology. My dissertation analyzed Bolivia’s unexpected political stability in the 1980s and 1990s (compared to its Andean neighbors Ecuador and Peru), and how reforms aimed at improving democratic governance contributed to a cycle of instability in the early 2000s that eventually led to the 2005 election of Evo Morales, the country’s first indigenous president. Since then, my research uses the Bolivian case to explore the relationship between democratization and political identity at the subnational level, and the role played by institutional and socioeconomic factors in that relationship. Overall, my work seeks to explore not only how democracies “work” (the kratos question), but also how political communities are established (the demos question).

Although my expertise is in Bolivian politics, my interests extend beyond Latin America. In a paper in Political Analysis, my co-author Mihaiela Gugiu and I critique a number of democracy scores commonly used in cross-national research. Using a sample of 63 countries in Latin America and Europe across three decades, we established that existing democracy scores vary significantly and are only able to distinguish between democracies and non-democracies: they could not credibly evaluate different levels of democratic quality.

Additionally, I am interested in the pedagogy of social science education. I have presented papers and offered workshops on how to integrate research methodology training into “content” courses, and have published research on the pedagogical value of simulations and critical writing exercises. My recent interest is in developing assessment tools to evaluate the impact of social science curricula on the development of “soft skills” and behaviors or attitudes (such as social capital and efficacy) among students.

Student Projects

I’m happy to advise graduate and undergraduate students on projects that focus on topics such as modernization, democratization, populism, or electoral politics and political institutions. I frequently advise theses for students at the Croft Institute for International Studies and/or the Sally MacDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

Selected Publications

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

2018. Miguel Centellas & Cy Rosenblatt. “Do Introductory Political Science Courses Contribute to a Racial ‘Political Efficacy Gap’? Findings from a Panel Survey of a Flagship University.” PS: Political Science & Politics 51 (3): 641-647. doi:10.1017/S1049096518000380

2016. “The Santa Cruz Autonomía Movement: A Case of Non-Indigenous Ethnic Popular Mobilization?” Ethnopolitics 15 (2): 245-264. doi:10.1080/17449057.2015.1018710

2015. “Cycles of Reform: Placing Evo Morales’s Bolivia in Context.” Latin American Research Review 50 (1): 229-241. doi:10.1353/lar.2015.0006

2013. Mihaiela R. Gugiu and Miguel Centellas. “The Democracy Cluster Classification Index.” Political Analysis 21 (3): 334-349. doi:10.1093/pan/mpt004

2012. Miguel Centellas and Gregory J. Love. “We’re Off to Replace the Wizard: Lessons from a Collaborative Group Project Assignment.” PS: Political Science & Politics 45 (3): 506-512. doi:10.1017/S1049096512000388

2011. “Preaching What We Practice: Bringing Scope and Methods ‘Back In’.” PS: Political Science & Politics 44 (4): 817-822. doi:10.1017/S1049096511001235

2010. “Pop Culture in the Classroom: American Idol, Karl Marx, and Alexis de Tocqueville.” PS: Political Science & Politics 43 (3): 561-565. doi:10.1017/S1049096510000818

Chapters in Edited Volumes

2017. “Bolivian Politics: Continuities, Changes, and Contradictions.” In Harvey F. Kline, Christine J. Wade, and Howard J. Wiarda (eds.), Latin American Politics & Development, 9th ed. Westview Press.

2013. “Bolivia’s New Multicultural Constitution: The 2009 Constitution in Historical and Comparative Perspective.” In Michael S. Danielson, Todd Eisenstadt, Moisés Jaime Bailón Corres, and Carlos Sorroza Polo (eds.), Understanding Latin America’s Multiculturalism and Autonomy Movements. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199936267.001.0001

Public Commentary & Scholarly Engagement

2017. “Bolivia’s Remarkable Political Stability.” AULA blog (Center for Latin American and Latino Studies, American University), March 23

2016. “Episode 18: Bolivian Politics,” Understanding Latin American Politics: The Podcast (hosted by Greg Weeks) December 30

2016. Co-Author, Recommendations for US-Latin America/Caribbean Policy, 2016 Elections, Global Americans US Scholars Working Group

2016. Guest, “Bolivia’s President Loses Key Referendum,” Worldview with Jerome McDonnell (WBEZ/NPR, Chicago), February 26

2016. “Evo Morales and the MAS’s Future.” Latin America Goes Global, February 18