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All about keeping the peace

Comparative politics associate professor Johanna Söderström's study of state building was inspired by experiences in Africa.

Johanna Söderström
New associate professor at the Department of Comparative Politics, Johanna Söderström, says she aims to help individuals and countries move past war.

“I want to understand how societies recover from crises and war.”

That’s the goal of SAMPOL’s newest academic, Johanna Söderström.

Söderström joined UiB’s Department of Comparative Politics as an associate professor earlier this month. She is an expert in the study of peacebuilding, post-war party politics, political reintegration of ex-combatants, electoral violence and fear, and related challenges in war-torn states.

Söderström says she aims to help individuals and countries move past war. “Unfortunately, this is a question that continues to haunt human societies,” she says. “This has been a longstanding theme of my research interest.”

Her passion stems from an experience in her youth. Söderström was born in Gothenburg, Sweden, and holds dual Swedish and American citizenship. Before going to university in Belgium and Sweden, she attended Waterford Kamhlaba United World College in Swaziland, where she studied African history and politics as part of her international baccalaureate diploma. 

“To a large degree that’s where I became concerned with global issues of inequality and the difficulties of overcoming a violent past,” Söderström says. “Waterford was a truly life-changing period in my life, personally and career-wise.”

She earned a B.A. in political science at Uppsala University in 2004, and master’s degrees from both the Department of Government and the Department of Archeology & Ancient History at Uppsala in 2005.  

Söderström earned her Ph.D. in political science at Uppsala in 2011. During that time she also worked as a teaching assistant in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR).

She subsequently held positions as a guest researcher in SAMPOL, as well as at Bergen’s Christian Michelsen Institute and the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá. She was also a researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute. For the past two years she has served as a Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Government at Uppsala.  

Söderström says she chose to come to SAMPOL because she recognized “the importance of having a critical mass of likeminded people around you.” She says SAMPOL’s general focus on comparative politics, as well as the specific interests of scholars in the department, dovetail well with her own enthusiasms.

Söderström is the author of the book Peacebuilding and Ex-Combatants: Political Reintegration in Liberia published by Routledge in 2015.

She also authored the article, “The Resilient, the Remobilized and the Removed: Party Mobilization among Former M19 Combatants,” published last year in the journal Civil Wars. She co-authored a forthcoming article, “Citizens by Design? Explaining Ex-Combatant Satisfaction with Reintegration Programs,” in the Journal of Development Studies.

Söderström says she enjoys teaching a broad range of topics, ranging from post-war party politics to taxation to the methodology of focus groups and life-history interviews.

This semester she is teaching SAMPOL’s master’s-level course Methods of Comparative Politics.

Outside of the office, Söderström says she fills her time painting, sewing, immersing herself in compelling television series, and training and playing with her dog, Themba.