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South African Democratization is Focus of Juniata Lecture

(Posted October 4, 2010)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. --- The struggles of forming a democratic government -- despite the current state of animosity in Congress -- are not restricted to the United States. Indeed, a political scientist from the University of San Diego will give a talk at Juniata College, "The Challenge of Tradition in Democratic South Africa," at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 14, in Neff Lecture Hall in the von Liebig Center for Science on the Juniata campus.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

J. Michael Williams, associate professor of political science and international relations at the University of San Diego, has focused his research on the process of democratization in rural South Africa since the decline of apartheid in 1994.

His recent book, "The Chieftaincy, the State, and Democracy: Political Legitimacy in Post-Apartheid South Africa," looks at how traditional chiefs in rural areas have sought to maintain political relevance and legitimacy.

He also has written books on the role of chiefs in the electoral process in South Africa and on how tribal chiefs lobby the government for recognition and protection. His two books on those topics are "Leading from Behind: Democratic Consolidation and the Chieftaincy in South Africa," and "Legislating Tradition," respectively.

Williams is currently working on a project researching the rule of law and constitutionalism in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in South Africa, Botswana, Ghana and Uganda.

He was hired as an assistant professor at San Diego University in 1999 and is currently chair of the political science department. He currently teaches a variety of courses focused on international politics, including African politics, Cultural Pluralism, International Law, Political Culture and Comparative Politics. He also teaches courses on Urban Politics, Race and Ethnicity and Courts and the Judicial Process.

He is a member of the American Political Association, the American Studies Association, the Midwest Political Science Association and the State Bar of California.

Williams earned a bachelor's degree in political science in 1992 from the University of San Diego and went on to earn a law degree in 1995 from American University's Washington College of Law. He returned to graduate school shortly thereafter, earning a doctorate in political science in 2001 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.