Alexis M. Lerner

Alexis M. Lerner is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science and at the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto, where she is supervised by Lucan A. Way. Her research program examines how states and citizens interact under authoritarianism, focusing on Russia and the post-Soviet region.

Alexis’ first book, Post-Soviet Graffiti: Free Speech in the Streets, evaluates street art as a viable avenue of political expression, effective in circumventing autocratic censorship. Post-Soviet Graffiti culminates a ten-year ethnographic study of political street art across the post-Soviet and post-Communist Europe regions. Using longitudinal and cross-sectional analyses, this book is the first systematic, comparative study of how graffiti is used as a political tool in the post-Soviet region and era.

Alexis’ dissertation also addresses the theme of authoritarian state control, asking which political opposition candidates running for president encounter targeted state repression. By amassing the professional biographies of over 4,100 potential presidential candidates across the post-Soviet region from 1991-2018, this work shows that incumbent presidents in autocratic states are less likely to repress independent candidates with robust foreign ties.

At the University of Toronto, Alexis teaches the year-long introduction to peace and conflict studies course offered through the Munk School and a semester-long quantitative methods course for students of Jewish Studies. In 2016, she won a university-wide Teaching Excellence Award at the University of Toronto and has given invited lectures at Columbia University (2018), the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2017), Wayne State University (2015), the University of Illinois-Chicago (2014), and the University of Michigan (2012).

Previously, Alexis served as a 2017-2019 Visiting Scholar at Columbia University's Harriman Institute, a Visiting Research Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and as the Director of Research for the Stanford University US-Russia Forum. She has a Master's Degree from Georgetown University's Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies (CERES), and a bachelor's degree in Political Science and Russian & Slavic Studies from McGill University.

Her work has been funded by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), Ontario Graduate Scholarship, the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, the Cosmos Club of Washington, D.C., and the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University, among other generous organizations.