Welcome! I am a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in International Relations at the University of St. Andrews. I previously held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame after earning my PhD in Comparative Politics and International Relations from Princeton University.

My research interests lie at the intersection of ethnic politics and conflict studies, with a regional focus on Africa. My book, When Soldiers Rebel, analyzes ethnic recruitment practices into African armies and how those practices have destabilized regimes, both historically and more recently during transitions to democracy. Other projects examine the causes and consequences of ethnic collective punishment during the Mau Mau rebellion in colonial Kenya, the challenges to civil war termination and peace buildingĀ  posed by ethnically recruited armies, and the political obstacles to successful military adaptation during counterinsurgency wars.


As reviewed in Comparative Politics, Democratization, H-War and profiled by Africa Defense Forum. Listen to my New Books Network Podcast here.

Advance Praise for When Soldiers Rebel:

“Kristen A. Harkness has revived the important subject of military politics and ethnicity, and she has shown not merely whom the likely coup makers are but under what conditions they are likely to strike. This is a very valuable addition to the field.”

-Donald Horowitz, Duke University

“When Soldiers Rebel is a path-breaking, highly original, and forceful book on the causes of coups in post-independence Africa. The case studies are thorough, engaging and persuasive. Compellingly written, When Soldiers Rebel is an elegant and extremely plausible answer to a very important and long-standing question of comparative and international politics.”

-Hein Goemans, University of Rochester

“Harkness’ impressive book sheds new light on the prevalence of military coups in ethnically divided African countries. Full of interesting data and carefully argued, her study convincingly demonstrates that the efforts of rulers to exclude formerly privileged groups often leads to rebellion. It will constitute essential reading for students of the military and ethnic conflict for the foreseeable future.”

-Nicholas Van de Walle, Cornell University

“A major addition to the literature on ethnic conflict, African politics, and the dynamics of the state. Original, tough-minded, and compelling.”

-Richard English, Queen’s University Belfast