Susan Ostermann

Assistant Professor of Global Affairs

Susan Ostermann

3134 Jenkins Nanovic Halls
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN 46556

(574) 631-1525

Susan Ostermann

Assistant Professor of Global Affairs


Regulatory compliance; South Asia; comparative politics; environmental regulation

At the Keough School

Susan L. Ostermann is assistant professor of global affairs and political science at the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame.



Ostermann completed her PhD in the Travers Department of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. She also holds a law degree from Stanford Law School and worked for several years as a practicing litigator, focusing on class actions and intellectual property disputes.

Research and Publications

Employing both quantitative and qualitative methodology, Ostermann seeks to understand the relationship between state capacity, coercion and law. Why do we sometimes see compliance with regulations in places where the state is coercively weak and actors, be they individuals or organizations, have strong incentives to break the law? Her book manuscript develops the concept of regulatory pragmatism to explain variation in strategies used by both the Nepali and Indian states to secure compliance with conservation, education, and child labor regulations under challenging conditions. More recent work explores compliance with anti-FGM/C law under conditions of low state coercive capacity in Burkina Faso, Mali and Kenya. Her next project seeks to understand why capable states sometimes choose not to monopolize violence.

While Professor Ostermann’s research focuses mainly on regulatory compliance in South Asia, she is broadly interested in understanding laws and norms and how they change and interact. Towards this end, she has published papers on inter-caste marriage and the role of skin color in Indian politics. She has also published work on the historical roots of conservatism in Indian political thought, the development and expansion of the Indian Election Commission, variation in sex-ratios throughout the subcontinent, the Indian bureaucracy, state capacity in South Asia, and the 2014 Indian general election.

Ostermann’s work has been published in Law & Society Review, Governance, Asian SurveyStudies in Comparative International Development, the Journal of Race, Ethnicity and PoliticsStudies in Indian Politics and Law & Policy.

Recent Work