Here are abstracts for to a variety of my working papers. Please email me to request a most-recent version.
- Ethnicity, Nonviolent Protest, and Lethal Repression in Africa (with Idean Salehyan).
Why do governments use deadly force against unarmed protesters? The government’s threat perception may be a function of the mobilization potential of the opposition and/or the size of ruling elite’s support coalition. Given the salience of ethnicity in African politics, governments that depend on small ethnic coalitions will see peaceful protests as more threatening, as the opposition can mobilize greater numbers. Governments with larger, more homogeneous ethnic coalitions will find nonviolent mobilization less threatening and be less likely to respond with deadly force. Using the Social Conflict Analysis Database, we demonstrate that as the size – and to a lesser extent homogeneity – of the ethnic ruling coalition grows, governments are less likely to use deadly force against nonviolent dissidents. This finding is robust to several operationalizations of the size of the government’s support coalition, the inclusion of other measures of ethnic demographics, and estimators that account for the hierarchical nature of the data.
- Introducing the Nonviolent Actors in Violent Contexts (NVAVC) Dataset (with Erica Chenoweth and Kyleanne Hunter).
Scholarship on civil war is overwhelmingly preoccupied with the actions of armed groups. Data collection efforts on actors in civil wars tend to reflect this emphasis, with most studies focusing on the identities, attributes, and violent behavior of armed actors. Yet various actors – including civilian groups, labor unions, local and transnational companies, local and transnational non-governmental organizations (NGOs), rebel groups, and international organizations (IGOs) – also use nonviolent methods to shape the intensity and variation of violence as well as the duration of peace in the aftermath. A growing body of documented evidence points ways that public protests, strikes, grassroots organizing, training, communications, and civil society capacity-building have contributed to the outcomes of violent civil conflicts. Yet existing data sets on mobilization by non-state actors—such as the Armed Conflict Events and Location (ACLED) and Social Conflict Analysis Database (SCAD)—tend to include data on manifest contentious acts, such as protests, strikes, and demonstrations. These data sources do not cover activities that might be somewhat mundane yet critical to the actors’ ultimate success, such as public communications, training sessions, meetings, and negotiations. To provide a more comprehensive view of the landscape of possible behaviors involved in civil wars, we present the Nonviolent Actors in Violent Contexts (NVAVC) Dataset, a collection effort compiling data on nonviolent action during civil wars in Africa from 1990-2012. In this article, we describe the data collection process, discuss the information contained therein, and offer descriptive statistics and trends over time.
- The Future is a Moving Target: Predicting Political Instability (with Drew Bolsby, Erica Chenoweth, and Jonathan Moyer).
Previous research by Goldstone et al. (2010) generated a highly accurate predictive model of state-level political instability. Notably, this model identifies political institutions – and partial democracy with factionalism specifically – as the most compelling factors explaining when and where instability events are likely to occur. In this article, we return to this model and re-assess its explanatory power. In this research note, we make three related points: (1) the model’s predictive power varies substantially over time; (2) its predictive power peaked in the period used for out-of-sample validation (1995-2004) in the original study; and (3) the model performs relatively poorly in the more recent period. We find that this decline is not simply due to the Arab Uprisings, instability events that occurred in autocracies. Further, we find similar issues with attempts to predict nonviolent uprisings (Chenoweth and Ulfelder 2017) and armed conflict onset and continuation (Hegre et al. 2013). These results inform two conclusions: (1) the drivers of instability are not constant over time, and (2) care must be exercised in interpreting prediction exercises as evidence in favor or dispositive of theoretical mechanisms.
- American Dominance in IR Scholarship in Leading Journals (with Jon Vreede).
This article investigates the factors that affect scholarly attention on particular countries in four major IR journals: International Studies Quarterly, International Organization, International Security and World Politics for the period 1970 to the present. The analysis supports three basic conclusions: 1) The United States receives the most scholarly attention in leading IR journals by a large margin; 2) a “naïve” model of scholarly attention, including just population, GDP, and a dummy for the United States fits the data rather well. Additional factors like membership in prominent international organizations or involvement in armed conflicts improve model fit, but only marginally, with little evidence of regional or English-language bias; and 3) There is only weak evidence that countries with stronger economic and security linkages with the United States receive more attention. However, Israel and Taiwan – two countries with unique security relationships with the United States – receive more scholarly attention than either the naïve or augmented models would predict. Our analysis of bibliometric data from leading IR journals indicates the United States is the 300,000 lb. blue whale of IR scholarship. However, this emphasis is not particularly outsized when its large population, economy, and its extensive history of participation in interstate wars are taken into account.
- Armed Conflict and Fisheries in the Lake Victoria Basin (with Sarah M. Glaser, Les Kaufman and Brittany Franck).
Civil conflict is the most prevalent form of armed conflict in the world today, but this significant driver of food and income security has been largely missing from studies of fisheries. Fisheries conflict is an example of complex dynamics operating in socio-ecological systems. Here, we theorize and document the existence of such a feedback loop between conflict in Uganda and fisheries in Lake Victoria. Civil war in northern Uganda resulted in mass human population displacement, which corresponded in time with increases in fishing effort in Lake Victoria. Subsequent changes in catch of Nile perch, the dominant commercial fishery, sparked armed conflict in the lake itself, at Migingo Island, between Uganda and Kenya. From this case study, we draw seven main conclusions. First, these correlation-based relationships are illustrative but not conclusive and we call for further empirical investigation. Second, the couplings between conflict and fishing subsystems are spatially asymmetric: conflict effects are diffuse in their links to broad changes in the fishery while fishery effects may produce more localized conflict events. Third, and most relevant to conflict scholars, the drivers of fishing effort and catch may originate in different subsystems but their changes and effects must be analyzed in concert. Fourth, the complex and path-dependent impacts of conflicts on natural resources in general, and fisheries in particular, highlights the urgent need for targeted surveys and more mechanistic understanding. Fifth, the open access nature of fisheries in Lake Victoria may exacerbate instabilities not present in other systems. Sixth, the diffuse and context-specific effects of conflicts on fisheries means models of fisheries management (e.g., stock assessment) should not incorporate conflict as a driver at this time. Finally, countries and their stakeholders should focus on diversification in employment for short term coping mechanisms during conflict as a means of short-circuiting the conflict-fisheries feedback loop.
- Food Prices, Oil Prices, and Political Instability.
Recent food and fuel prices spikes generated significant interest in global food and oil markets as potential drivers of political instability, but little is known about the particular institutional contexts in which, and types of instability for which, food and fuel prices matter. I argue high global food and fuel prices will be more destabilizing in more open political systems and will affect primarily urban, more short-lived forms of instability, such as adverse regime changes, more than rural, longer-lasting ones, like ethnic or revolutionary wars. Analysis of the Political Instability Task Force’s Problem Set supports my argument.
- Reassessing Sampling Bias in Climate-Conflict Research (with Tasia Poinsatte).
Is research into the links between climate change and conflict biased, and does this bias undermine our ability to say anything conclusive about climate-conflict links? In a recent letter to Nature Climate Change, Adams et al. (henceforth AEA)1argue the literature on climate-conflict links suffers from endemic sample selection bias. In this letter, we revisit the issue of sampling bias in climate-conflict research using different, more representative data. We re-assess the evidence for sampling bias using a broader measure of scholarly interest based on bibliometric data from Google Scholar searches of leading journals. We show i) some evidence of sampling on the dependent variable, but on types of conflict that fit with posited mechanisms in the climate-conflict literature, and argue that some oversampling of conflict-prone cases is a good thing; ii) researchers are sampling on the independent variable, with countries more exposed to climate change receiving more attention; and iii) even stronger evidence of a streetlight effect, with former British colonies and countries with more UNESCO World Heritage Sites receiving more attention. By virtue of their wide recognition, UNESCO sites amplify the perceived significance of particular countries to the international community.