Rebecca Tapscott

PhD Student


Rebecca Tapscott is a PhD candidate at the Fletcher School and a researcher for the London School of Economics’ Justice and Security Research Programme. Her research examines the relationship between the state and vigilante groups in post-conflict northern Uganda, looking at who can use violence, how and to what ends. The findings show that disorder and unpredictability are key tools of governance of the Ugandan state, resulting in fragile yet resilient governance institutions that, while efficient, can pose a threat to regional and international stability, especially in moments of political transition. The findings rely on eight months of qualitative research, as well as an econometric analysis of a 1,551 household survey. Rebecca’s research contributes to literature on public authority, sub-national governance, and national and regional security related to so-called “fragile” states.

Awards, Fellowships, and Grants
  • Morris Abrams Award in International Relations (Spring 2015).
  • Justice and Security Research Program Capacity Building Grant (Fall 2014).
  • Harvard’s Program on Negotiation (PON) Next Generation Grant (Fall 2014).
  • Fletcher School’s Dean’s Research Fund (Fall 2014).
  • Fletcher School’s Institute for Human Security Doctoral Grant (Fall 2014).
  • Fletcher School’s Alfred P. Rubin Prize in International Law (Fall 2011).
  • Feinstein International Center Summer Funding (Summer 2010).

Fields of Study
  • Development Economics
  • Human Security

Areas of Study
  • Comparative Politics

• Tapscott, Rebecca. “Local security and the (un)making of public authority in Gulu, northern Uganda” African Affairs (forthcoming, January 2017)
• Desai, Deval and Rebecca Tapscott. “Online Symposium on the Changing Ethics and Politics of Knowledge Production in Fragile States,” Humanity Journal Online (4 December 2015).
• Tapscott, Rebecca. “Maximizing Achievements in Human Rights Development: Arguments for a Rights-Based Approach to Land Tenure Reform.” PRAXIS The Fletcher Journal of Human Security 27 (2012).
• Tapscott, Rebecca. “Preventing Change and Protecting the Regime: Crime Preventers, Local Livelihoods, and the 2016 Ugandan Elections” (Working Paper 31, Justice and Security Research Programme, London School of Economics, 2016).
• Tapscott, Rebecca. “The Government Has Long Hands: Local Security Initiatives and Institutionalized Arbitrariness in Gulu, Northern Uganda” Development and Change (forthcoming).
• Tapscott, Rebecca. “Understanding Breast ‘Ironing’: A Study of the Methods, Motivations, and Outcomes of Breast Flattening Practices in Cameroon,” The Feinstein International Center, (May 2012)

• “Vigilantes, security institutions, and regime longevity: Governing through arbitrary intervention in northern Uganda” Invited lecture for Program of African Studies at Northwestern University, 5 October 2016.
• African Studies Association of the UK: “Local Security, State Authority and the Unmaking of Political Accountability in Gulu, Northern Uganda” and “Policing men: Conflicting masculinities as a tool of state power in post-conflict northern Uganda,” [Paper presentations], Cambridge (7-9 September, 2016).
• American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting 2016: “Masculinities, security, and governance in post-conflict northern Uganda,” [Paper presentation], Minneapolis (16-20 November, 2016).
• European Conference on African Studies 2015: “The Government Has Long Hands: Community Security Groups and Arbitrary Governance in Uganda’s Acholiland,” [Paper presentation], Paris (July 8-10, 2015).
• Governance at the Edge of the State 2014: “Community Security Initiatives as Boundary Institutions: A comparative study of security and governance in contemporary fragile state,” Ghent University (September 15-18, 2014).
• International Studies Association Annual Meeting 2016: Co-organizer, “Researching peace in the ‘post-conflict’: dirty little secrets or professional ethics?” [Round table], Atlanta (March 16-19, 2016).
• International Studies Association Annual Meeting 2017: “Where the Wild Things Aren’t: How the Ugandan Government Produced and Managed its Crime Preventers,” [Paper presentation], Baltimore (22-25 February 2017).
• Justice & Security Research Program Expert Workshop 2014: “Local security at boundary: producing public authority in northern Uganda’s Acholiland,” [Paper presentation], Gulu, Uganda (December 1-3, 2014).
• Law and Society Association Annual Meeting 2015: Discussant, “The seductions of ‘context’ and contexts of seduction: interrogating the academic-practitioner nexus in rule of law reform,” [Round table], Seattle (May 28-31, 2015).
• The Ugandan Regime in the 2016 Elections: “Preventing Change and Protecting the Regime: Gulu’s Crime Preventers, Local Livelihoods, and the 2016 Ugandan Elections,” [Paper presentation], All Souls College, Oxford (22 April 2016).

PhD Dissertation
  • States of (in)security: Arbitrary intervention & vigilante groups in northern Uganda

Related Links

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School Leadership


  • Board of Advisors
  • Asian Advisory Group
  • European Advisory Group
  • Latin American Advisory Group
  • MENASA Advisory Group