Peter Siavelis


Office: Kirby 308
Phone: 758-5451

Areas of Expertise: Latin American Politics; Political Institutions; Election Systems; Candidate Selection; Chilean Politics


Peter Siavelis is Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Affairs and Director of the Chile/Argentina Study Abroad program. He received his PhD from Georgetown University and has held visiting appointments in Chile and Spain.  He has published on Latin American electoral and legislative politics in numerous journal articles and book chapters including publications in Comparative Politics, Comparative Political Studies, Electoral Studies, Party Politics, Latin American Research Review, and Latin American Politics and Society. He is the author of The President and Congress in Post-authoritarian Chile: Institutional Constraints to Democratic Consolidation (Penn State Press, 2000).  He is also the co-editor of Pathways to Power: Political Recruitment and Candidate Selection in Latin America (Penn State Press, 2008), with Scott Morgenstern.  His most recent book is Democratic Chile: The Politics and Policies of a Historic Coalition, 1990-2010, edited with Kirsten Sehnbruch (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Press, 2014), which was also published in Spanish as El Balance: Política y las políticas de la Concertación (Santiago: Catalonia, 2014).


BA      1986, Bradley University
MA     1989, Georgetown University 1989
PhD    1996, Georgetown University

Administrative Appointments

Director, Latin American and Latino Studies Program, Wake Forest University
Program Director, Leadership, Social Justice, and Citizenship in the United States
Director, Chile Honors Program, Santiago, Chile
Director, Santiago, Chile Study Abroad Program, Wake Forest University
Department Chair, Politics and International Affairs
Campus Coordinator, Wake Forest University/Georgetown University Five Year BA/MA Joint Degree Program in Latin American Studies

Recent Visiting Appointments

Senior Visiting Fellow, Centre for Social Conflict and Cohesian Studies (COES) (2018)
Short-term Visiting Professor, Department of Ciencias Politicas y Administrativas (2015)
Visiting Researcher, Area de Ciencia Política y de la Administración de la Universidad de Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain (July 2008).
Visiting Professor, Departamento de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales,  Programa de Doctorado, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain (Summer 06).
Visiting Professor, Institute of Political Science, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Santiago, Chile (1993)



View a list of publications:


POL 114 Comparative Government and Politics

Political systems throughout the world face a number of similar challenges in establishing and maintaining democracy.  This course is based on the premise that through comparison of these challenges we can begin to make some generalizations concerning the variables that affect the relative success or failure of distinct countries in balancing the dual challenges of representation and stability inherent in all democratic systems.

The course is divided into three sections.  The first deals with theoretical and methodological issues in the field of comparative politics.  We will begin by briefly defining comparative politics and outlining the historical development of approaches to its study. The second section of the course focuses on differentiating political regimes, and the actual mechanics of the wide variety of democracies that exist in the world.  Particular attention will be given to the institutional arrangements which affect the governability and potential longevity of democratic systems.  The third section of the course combines the first two by applying what we have learned to a wide variety of case studies, including industrialized democracies (Great Britain and France), post-communist and communist societies (Russia and China), and the developing areas (India, Mexico and Nigeria).

POL 236 Government and Politics in Latin America

This course seeks to move beyond the focus on democratic transitions that has characterized the study of Latin American governments in recent years.  It will explore the actual processes of politics in Latin America.  In particular, it will concentrate on the process of democratic consolidation and the actual conduct of democracy in the region, pointing to some of the variables that have helped to make some democracies more successful than others both in terms of governability and popular representation.

The course is divided into five sections.  During the first section of the course, we will explore the historical and intellectual background of the political development of the region. The second section will analyze political actors in Latin America, focusing on their interaction during recent decades, and particularly their impact on processes of regime breakdown and democratic transition. During the third part of the course we will focus on democratic political processes in the region, with particular attention to institutional arrangements and electoral and party systems variables in the consolidation of democratic politics.   The fourth section, which makes up the bulk of the course, will consist of case studies.  We will conclude with an examination of the prospects for the consolidation of democracy in the region.

POL 253 International Political Economy

The purpose of this course is to introduce the major theoretical issues in international political economy (IPE) and to familiarize students with the current political challenges and conflicts facing the world economic system, as well as their connections to domestic economies.  I want to stress that this is not an economics course.  Though economic concepts will be employed during the course, I will make no assumptions that students already understand concepts drawn from the field of economics.

The first section of the course aims to introduce students to the broad array of theoretical approaches to understanding IPE and the major debates within the field.  The second part of the course explores major themes in IPE including trade, integration, North-South relations, and international monetary relations.  The third part of the course is devoted to more recent global issues in IPE including the environment, immigration, human rights, and security.  The course concludes with debates on the effects of world capitalism and an effort to understand the direction the international political economy is moving.

POL 257  Interamerican Relations

Latin America has been a central concern of the United States since its foundation.  However, the US’s focus on Latin America has often been driven by events outside the hemisphere.  Latin Americans repeatedly complain that the region alternates between being ignored and being an obsession of the US depending on perceived security threats in the hemisphere.

Nonetheless, as integration proceeds apace across the globe it is clear that the countries of this hemisphere share a common future. What is more, the borders between American states are becoming increasingly porous as people, products, and cultures become intermixed.  This reality has created special problems and new challenges.   The course is designed to both explore the difficult history of Interamerican relations and the “special relationship” between the nations of our hemisphere, and to also analyze new problems and their potential solutions.

POL 300  Democratic Institutional Design: Latin American in Comparative Perspective

During the last twenty years in the study of Latin American politics, scholars have moved from a focus on democratic transitions to analyze in concrete terms how Latin American democracies are functioning.  Of particular interest have been the institutional variables that affect the nature, durability, and representative capacity of democratic systems.  Among the variables that theorists identify as having a major impact on democratic governability and the prospects for democratic consolidation are the institutional arrangement of executive/legislative relations, electoral systems, party systems, and whether countries are regionally organized as unitary or federal systems.  This course seeks to convey to students how each of these variables (and distinct combinations of them) affects the potential workability of democratic systems.  It will explore the effect that successful institutional design can have on the workability of democratic regimes in Latin America, while also underscoring the limits both to the institutional approach to explaining political outcomes and the use of institutional engineering.  This is a capstone seminar for which students will complete a major research paper.

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