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Research

I am broadly interested in intrastate conflict dynamics and peace processes, including how multi-party conflict influences government strategy, the bargaining power of insurgent groups, and civilian perceptions of state legitimacy. Please read below for information about my current book project, as well as other works in progress.

Book Project

My dissertation looks at exclusive “peace” agreements—those agreements governments that exclude at least one warring party in the conflict—and I argue that these agreements function as a part of states’ counterinsurgency strategy. These agreements serve two different counterinsurgency purposes. First, they build fighting capacity: governments make these agreements with some rebel groups to consolidate the number of fronts they are fighting on as well as to ally with these rebel groups to fight other rebel groups. The government's goals thus affect the institutional design of these exclusive agreements, which are more like to allow rebel groups to retain their weapons and organization rather than to try to disarm and demobilize. Second, governments use exclusive agreements as a hearts and minds-approach to address grievances in the civilian population. If specific ethnic groups, from which rebels recruit and receive operational support, learn that the government is actually treating them favorably by giving them political-economic power-sharing concessions in a negotiated settlement this can help drain away the support from rebels that remain outside the agreement. I am also currently fielding an experiment in the Mindanao region of the Philippines to test this second mechanism.

Present scholarship dichotomizes rebel group behavior as either at peace or in conflict with the state, obscuring a wide range of possible conflict and post-conflict relationships between governments and insurgent groups. Scholarship on rebel against rebel violence often prematurely truncates the window of observation as groups exit datasets once a rebel group ceases armed conflict against the state. My research shows how the formal integration of rebel groups into the armed forces provides clarity and commitment devises that facilitate rebel groups joining in offensives against the remaining insurgent threat. How combatants are integrated into the military also influences whether rebels join in counterinsurgency activity. Combatants are most likely to attack other insurgent groups when rebel groups are integrated into the armed forces but allowed to maintain their original organizational structure by serving in separate military units.

I have adopted a mixed-methods approach to testing this theory. I have collected original data on the variation in programs for integrating ex-combatants into the national military and conducted an in-depth case study of counterinsurgency in the Philippines.

Papers Under Review

Party in Eastern Europe and Russia: IGOs and Ethnopolitical Organizations Running for Office
(with Victor Asal)

Why do some ethnic organizations participate in elections while others do not? The literature on ethnic political parties has identified institutional features and ethnic group characteristics that predict ethnic party formation – but these cannot explain which organizations represent an ethnic group as political parties. Scholars have analyzed how intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) promote democratization in a top-down fashion by pressuring and incentivizing regimes to adopt reforms. In this paper, we study the effect of a bottom-up approach to democratization – IGO support of ethnic organizations' participation in elections. Analyzing original data on ethnic organizations in Eastern Europe and Russia from 1991 to 2006, we test whether IGO support encourages ethnic organizations to act as ethnic political parties. Using a nested random-effects model to account for the demographic and institutional features, we demonstrate that ethnic organizations with the backing of an IGO are significantly more likely to participate in elections as a political party. A case study of IGO support for party development in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina clarifies the theory's causal mechanisms. In studying how ties between IGOs and specific ethnic organizations alter the number and kind of ethnic organizations that participate in elections, this research models an import selection process that should inform the broader discussion on the consequences of emergent ethnic parties.

Works in Progress

Understanding the Local Effect of UN Peace Operations: A Quasi-Experimental Spatial Impact Evaluation in Burundi
(with Susanna Campbell and Michael Findley)

When do UN peace operations have the desired sub-national effect in post-conflict countries? The literature on UN peacekeeping argues that the presence of robust and well-resourced UN peacekeeping operations provides a security guarantee and deters fighting between warring factions, contributing to short- and long-term violence reduction (Walter 1997; Doyle and Sambanis 2000; Fortna 2004; Hultman et al. 2014). While these cross-national studies provide important insight into the influence of UN peacekeeping on civil war, they overlook crucial heterogeneity at the sub-national level. First, peacekeeping is no longer solely the realm of peacekeepers. Numerous civilian personnel work for and alongside UN peace operations to build security, governance, and economic institutions. Second, UN peacekeeping does not operate uniformly throughout a territory, instead targeting particular sub-national locations. A sub-national examination of multidimensional UN peace operations gives a very different picture of its effects and the causes of these effects. Based on a quasi-experimental impact evaluation of the UN Mission in Burundi – combining a large household level survey with almost 200 semi-structured interviews – we show that the way the mandate is implemented at the sub-national level has an impact on the sub-national and national-level success of the UN peace operation. By capturing the multidimensional work of UN peace operations at the sub-national level, this paper identifies a crucial omitted variable – sub-national mandate implementation – that has been overlooked by all previous studies of UN peacekeeping.

Action or Reaction: Violence Dynamics in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
(with Karsten Donnay and Ravi Bhavnani)

Building on studies of reactive or “retaliatory” violence in Gaza/Israel (Jaeger and Paserman 2006, Jaeger and Paserman 2008, Haushofer et al. 2010), as well as research that analyzes the use of selective vs. indiscriminate violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Bhavnani et al. 2011), we analyze the reactive nature of violence in Israel and the Palestinian Territories in the period from 2000-2014. Our analysis is based on detailed geo-coded event data of deadly violence and Palestinian rocket/mortar launches. Using a novel computational technique for robust causal inference in spatio-temporal event data (Schutte and Donnay 2014), we find that violence perpetrated by a group tends to increase as a result of previous violence targeting the same group. Our preliminary analysis suggests that these effects depend on geographical location: for example, reactive signatures differ if we only consider incidents in the Palestinian territories under incomplete Palestinian control versus the full conflict dynamics in Israel and the occupied territories. The analysis further shows that reactive signatures differ depending on the conflict period, illustrated here for the Al-Aqsa Intifada (2000-2005) as compared to the post-Intifada period (2005-2008).

Divide and Conquer: Exclusive Peace Agreements in Multiparty Conflicts

Predicting Political Violence with Social Media Data
(with Havard Hegre)

What’s in a Name? Media Coverage and Islamist Franchises

Geography and Elite Frames: A Study of the Colombian Peace Process (with Natalia Garbiras Diaz)