Mike McGovern is a political anthropologist who works in West Africa and uses a variety of sources from kinship idioms to the aesthetics of state-sponsored folklore to try to understand postcolonial states within the arc of longer historical trajectories. His book Making War in Côte d'Ivoire focuses on the dramaturgy, sociology, and political economy of the Ivorian civil conflict. A second book, Unmasking the State, traces the intertwined processes of state formation and ethnogenesis in Guinea over the course of the 20th century. He is currently working on a book project entitled A Socialist Peace? Explaining the Absence of War in an Out-of-the-Way Place. It argues that certain elements of Guinea's socialist past may have helped to inoculate the country against dynamics that have favored the outbreak of civil conflict elsewhere. Recent book chapters and articles have focused on the aspirational facet of kinship talk during times of war, the politics of popular music in Côte d'Ivoire; and the interplay of Islamist conversion, local politics, and US counterterrorism policy in West Africa.
McGovern has taught anthropology at Yale and was also the West Africa Project Director of the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank that analyzes the causes of armed conflict. In that position he researched and wrote papers on post-conflict reconstruction in Liberia and Sierra Leone, the social reintegration of ex-combatant youths, Liberian security sector reform, and the links between political economy and political rhetoric in Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire. McGovern's teaching focuses on politics, expressive culture, youth and rebellion.