Cyril is a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at Brown University, with concentrations in Comparative Politics and International Relations. Cyril studies how forced migration due to violence and disasters affects the wellbeing of migrant families and how governments and civil society respond. His mixed-methods research combines multiple qualitative methods, including interviews, participant observation, and participatory approaches, together with design-based causal inference. He has published over 30 scientific articles and chapters in high-impact journals and edited volumes, such as in Social Science & Medicine, PLoS ONE, The Journal of Refugee Studies, Disasters, and The Journal of Interpersonal Violence.
Cyril has previously held senior research positions at Columbia University’s Program on Forced Migration and Health, the CPC Learning Network, the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, and the University of Indonesia’s School of Social and Political Sciences. He has completed projects for a variety of partners, including the World Bank, USAID, DFAT, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF. He has a Master’s in Public Health from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s in Brain, Behavior, and Cognitive Science from the University of Michigan.
Remittances, Rentierism, and Development: How Migrants Support their Hometowns When States are Unaccountable
My multi-sited, transnational dissertation investigates the relationship between migration to the U.S. and subnational development in Guatemala. I argue that predatory rentierism—a violent form of rent-seeking that includes extortion, kidnapping, and patronage—undermines migrant investments in their communities of origin, driving remittances largely toward private uses that are difficult to expropriate, rather than towards public goods. In the first empirical chapter, I use transnational interviews with nearly 200 participants to demonstrate how predatory rentierism throughout the migration trajectory constrains the resources available to migrant families, while driving them to develop spending behaviors that evade criminal and government predation. My second chapter uses comparative case studies of communities in El Quiché and national panel survey data to argue that, although expectations of rent-seeking lead migrant families to privatize their remittance spending, trustworthy authorities can succeed at promoting public goods by leveraging norms of reciprocity and community service. My third chapter, which pairs administrative data and qualitative interviews with key informants and Guatemalan immigrants, finds that remittances improve health, but only for conditions that are responsive to private spending, such as water-borne diseases. At the same time, remittances enrich criminal groups and corrupt officials that prey on migrant networks. I conclude that, owing to predatory rentierism, remittances may contribute to survival, but they do not improve development.