Professor Eisenstadt's research focuses on the intersection of formal institutions and laws with informal institutions and practices, mostly in democratizing countries in Latin America. He is presently PI (along with Karleen West) of a National Science Foundation (NSF) project "Lawsuits for the Pacha Mama [Mother Earth] in Ecuador: Explaining the Determinants of New Indigenous Movements to Mitigate Environmental Impacts." Using a survey conducted with Ecuadorian partners, he and his co-author are studying poor, rural, indigenous communities to understand how they overcome socioeconomic and geographic barriers to launch new forms of social movements relying on Western science and international collaboration. The project stems from an earlier book, Politics, Identity, and Mexico's Indigenous Rights Movements (Cambridge University Press, 2011). In 2016, he and West are completing a book manuscript on this project tentatively titled Who Speaks for Nature? Indigenous Activists, Oil Drillers, Public Opinion, and the Struggle over Extractive Populism in Ecuador.
His research also looks at the relationship between constitution-making processes and democratization across scores of nations, and the implementation of judicial reforms in Mexico and Latin America. Co-author of a fall 2015 piece in the American Political Science Review, he is also the author of Courting Democracy in Mexico: Party Strategies and Electoral Institutions (Cambridge University Press, 2004 based on his University of California, San Diego dissertation), and dozens of journal articles and book chapters. In 2016, he and co-authors Carl LeVan and Tofigh Maboudi and completing a book, Constituents Before Assembly: Participation, Deliberation, and Representation in the Worldwide Crafting of New Constitutions, which has been contracted by the Cambridge University Press. His research has been funded by the Fulbright Commission, the National Security Education Program (NSEP), the Ford and Mellon foundations, USAID, and the NSF.
A former director of multiple United States Agency for International Development (USAID) grants in Mexico, Eisenstadt has helped train hundreds of stakeholders in judicial reform implementation, electoral observation and other government processes there. Formerly an award-winning print journalist and Capitol Hill staffer, Eisenstadt has worked as a consultant for USAID, the Organization of American States, and several development companies, including, most recently, Democracy International (2015). The 2016-17 chair of American University’s Faculty Senate, and Faculty Trustee for the university, Eisenstadt has undertaken a range of administrative positions. From 2009-2012 Eisenstadt served as chair of the Department of Government and has served multiple terms as the Doctoral Program Director there. His doctoral students have received awards from the NSF, the Fulbright, Boren, and Inter-American Foundation, and he has held visiting appointments at El Colegio de México and CIDE (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas) in Mexico City, Harvard University, the University of California, San Diego, and the Latin American Social Science Faculty (FLACSO) in Quito, Ecuador.