The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Frederic C. Schaffer

Frederic C. Schaffer, Frederic Charles Schaffer, Frederic Schaffer, Fred Schaffer

Professional Title: 

Professor of Political Science

Service Role: 

  • Field Clerk - Comparative Politics


Thompson 638

Phone Number: 



Office Hours: 

Spring 2019: Tuesdays 2:00 to 3:30 and by appointment


Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley


My subfield of specialization is comparative politics and my methodological area of expertise is the investigation of concepts. Substantively, I study the meaning of democracy, the practice of voting, and the administration of elections. What sets much of my work apart from other empirical research on democracy is my methodological focus on language. By carefully examining the differing ways in which ordinary people around the world use terms such as "democracy," "politics," and "vote buying" – or their rough equivalents in other languages – I aim to arrive at a fuller appreciation of how they understand and make use of electoral institutions. At UMass I offer undergraduate courses on the meaning of “politics,” the language of politics, and whether democracy is possible or desirable everywhere. At the graduate level I offer the comparative politics proseminar and a seminar on studying politics through language. Beyond UMass, I teach ethnographic interviewing at the yearly Institute for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research hosted by Syracuse University. I also teach courses on how to work with concepts in the social sciences at the Workshops on Social Science Research hosted by Concordia University and the European Consortium for Political Research Winter School in Bamberg, Germany. In addition, I frequently serve as a “concepts expert” at the Methods Café held during the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. I am the past chair and a current board member of the Committee on Concepts and Methods of the International Political Science Association. I am also an executive board member of both the Interpretive Methodologies and Methods conference group and the Qualitative and Multi-Methods Research section of the American Political Science Association. Among my publications are Democracy in Translation: Understanding Politics in an Unfamiliar Culture (1998), Elections for Sale: The Causes and Consequences of Vote Buying (2007), The Hidden Costs of Clean Election Reform (2008), and Elucidating Social Science Concepts: An Interpretivist Guide (2016). I am currently writing a conceptual history of “the voter.”

Area of Study: 

  • Comparative politics


  • Political Science