Professor Emeritus Joel D. Barkan, who died suddenly on January 10th, was a member of the Department of Political Science for over four decades. He was appointed in 1972 with the initial support of a research grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development to strengthen research on the role of legislatures in developing countries. That was the field in which he became a pre-eminent expert, the subject of his teaching and of his extensive publications in five books and over 50 articles. He served increasingly as a consultant to governmental and non-governmental agencies concerned with political development in Africa.
Professor Barkan received his undergraduate education at Cornell University and his Ph.D. from UCLA. He was the founding Director of the University of Iowa’s Center for International and Comparative Studies and was twice chair of the African Studies Program. He was department chair from 1985 to 1987. In 2001-02, with Professor Gerard Rushton and Paul Densham, he created a website for “Designing Better Electoral Systems for Emerging Democracies,” applying a spatial decision support system with illustrations from Kenya and South Africa. His interests crossed disciplines, he was devoted to international studies, and he had a life-long commitment to relating his research to problems of democratization in Africa.
After retirement from teaching at Iowa in 2005 he moved to Washington. DC. where he held a series of advisory appointments at the World Bank, the National Democratic Institute, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He also held visiting appointments at the University of Cape Town, Princeton University, and the Johns Hopkins University. At the time of his death he was working on a comparative study of 17 sub-Saharan African legislatures with Robert Mattes of the University of Cape Town.