Conrad's research focuses on political violence and human rights. Overarching themes in Conrad's writings include how repressive agents make decisions in the face of domestic and international institutional constraints.
In the News
"When Do Countries Respond to Terrorism with Torture?," Courtenay R. Conrad (with ), The Monkey Cage, The Washington Post, January 13, 2015.
Courtenay R. Conrad's research on torture allegations discussed by , "Most Countries are Against Torture — But Most Have Also been Accused of It," The Washington Post, December 12, 2014.
Courtenay R. Conrad quoted on government torture by Eric Niiler, "Why We Torture When We Know It Doesn't Work" Discovery News, December 10, 2014.
"Why Democracy Doesn’t Always Improve Human Rights," Courtenay R. Conrad, European Politics and Policy, London School of Economics Blog, September 5, 2014.
"Divergent Incentives for Dictators: Domestic Institutions and (International Promises Not to) Torture" Journal of Conflict Resolution (forthcoming).
Argues that although dictators face domestic incentives to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT) and nonetheless engage in torture are moderated in countries with effective domestic judiciaries.
"Tyrants and Terrorism: Why Some Autocrats are Terrorized while Others are Not" (with ). International Studies Quarterly (forthcoming).
Finds empirical evidence that dictatorships generating higher audience costs experience as much terrorism as democracies, while autocracies generating lower audience costs face fewer attacks than their democratic counterparts.
"Constrained by the Bank and the Ballot: Unearned Revenue, Democracy, and State Incentives to Repress" (with ). Journal of Peace Research 50, no. 1 (2013): 105-119.
Finds that democratic institutions have a moderating effect on the positive relationship between unearned revenues and human rights violations. Our results suggest that pursuing democracy is a useful way to reduce political violence, both directly and indirectly, even in the presence of a resource curse.
"Treaties, Tenure, and Torture: The Conflicting Domestic Effects of International Law" (with ). Journal of Politics 75, no. 2 (2013): 397-409.
Argues that international human rights treaties have no effect on government repression in countries where leaders are insecure in office, but have a positive effect on rights protection in countries headed by secure leaders.
"Constrained Concessions: Dictatorial Responses to Domestic Opposition" International Studies Quarterly 55 (2012): 1167-1187.
Makes the case that dictators buy off some types of domestic political opposition with material concessions and liberalize when they face other types of domestic opposition. Because dictators often make decisions facing environmental constraints, however, I also argue that financial conditions can limit a dictator’s ability to respond beneficently to the opposition.
"What Stops the Torture?" (with ). American Journal of Political Science 54, no. 2 (2010): 459-476.
Shows that some liberal democratic institutions change the probability that leaders support the creation of institutions that discourage jailers and interrogators from engaging in torture, thus increasing the probability of a state terminating its use of torture. But states rarely terminate the use of torture when they face a threat.