Joel Barkan tragically passed away on 10 January 2014. He was on a family vacation in Mexico City with his wife Sandra, son and daughter-in-law, where he suffered a pulmonary embolism.
Joel was one of the leading scholars of African politics. He was the author of five books, including Beyond Capitalism Versus Socialism in Kenya and Tanzania (1995) and most recently Legislative Power in Emerging African Democracies (2009), and contributed pieces to many of the discipline’s leading journals such as the American Political Science Review (1987, 1976), World Politics (1989), Democratization, (2000), Foreign Affairs (2004, 1998), Journal of Democracy (2012, 2008, 1998, 1995, 1993) and Journal of Modern African Studies (1991, 1989).
Joel’s scholarship linked the first generation of American scholars who applied the new methods of political science to the systematic study of Africa’s newly independent states, like his mentor Joseph Coleman, and the most recent cohort of Africanists who regularly use survey and experimental research. Joel was one of the very first scholars to carry out a representative survey of African citizens (as well as of local elites and members of parliament), in his seminal analysis of the role Kenyan MPs played in linking rural, peripheral communities to the political centre (published with Chong Lim Kim, Ilter Turan and Malcolm Jewell as The Legislative Connection: The Politics of Representation in Kenya, Korea and Turkey). At the time of his death, he was working with us to complete the African Legislatures Project, a comparative study of 17 African legislatures that used direct observation, key informant interviews, and mass and elite surveys. This project represented the culmination of his life’s work.