Peer Reviewed Publications

New Findings from Conflict Archives: An Introduction and Methodological Framework  

The Journal of Peace Research 2018(3): forthcoming

(with Laia Balcells),

As they pursue information and deploy violence during conflict, combatants compose, catalog, and preserve a wide variety of records, such as memos, investigative reports, and communiqués. In an increasing number of post-conflict scenarios, these records are being archived and released publicly, quickly becoming a critical new source of data for studies of peace and conflict. The objective of this special issue is to advance a new research agenda focused on the systematic analysis of conflict archives. The contributors each spent significant time collecting original data from often-dusty archives and, in many cases, developed new methodologies for sampling, cataloging, and analyzing historical documents. Their findings reveal how violence simultaneously shapes and is shaped by factors that remain largely unobservable using more conventional sources of conflict data, including clandestine mobilization, bureaucratic accountability, and political identities. By considering these studies in relation to one another, this introduction aims to provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of field research strategies and analytical techniques for studying original data from conflict archives. We conclude that while archival data are subject to their own biases that must be considered, this research agenda addresses significant limitations associated with traditional data sources and, in turn, pushes scholars to rethink many of the mechanisms underlying the causes and dynamics of peace and conflict.



Resistance is Mobile: Dynamics of Repression, Challenger Adaptation, and Surveillance in US ‘Red Squad’ and Black Nationalist Archives.

The Journal of Peace Research 2018(3): forthcoming

(with Christian Davenport)

An emerging consensus holds that achieving successful counter-movement outcomes requires combining overt repression (e.g. raids, arrests, and targeted assassination) with covert repression (e.g. monitoring, agents provocateur, and wiretapping). Research in this article disputes the presumed complementarity between overt and covert repressive tactics. When overt repression signals new information about the state’s covert intelligence collection program, challengers respond in ways that frustrate efforts to accumulate new intelligence. These propositions are investigated using original, weekly panel data on a Black Nationalist insurgent organization, the Republic of New Africa (RNA), and US Red Squad counter-movement activities directed against this group (between 1968 and 1971). Using archived materials generated by various policing agencies and their rivals in the RNA, the analyses provide new understanding of dynamics rarely observed or analyzed systematically. Findings reveal that the two methods of political repression can work at cross purposes. Overt repression motivates challenger adaption towards less readily observable tactics and organizational forms; covert repression subsequently fails to identify challengers’ actions or identities. These findings hold even while controlling for challenger mobilization and government investment in covert repression. In addition to advancing our understanding of what happens to behavioral challengers when governments repress, the results help to shed light on some of the factors that make defeating domestic challengers so difficult. Each ‘step forward’ taken by counter-movement forces potentially makes the next one more difficult.



Activism in an Age of Mass Surveillance

(Part of Contentious Politics in the Trump Era, with Charles Crabtree, Christian Davenport, Erica Chenoweth, Dana Moss, Jennifer Earl, & Emily Ritter)

PS: Political Science & Politics. (2018) 51(1): 17-25

Activism in an age of mass surveillance necessitates limiting activists’ exposure and providing cover for mobilization. Following an era in which information and communications technologies were heralded as neutral platforms supporting mobilization and collective action, scholars have begun to examine the limits of digital mobilization and, in particular, the ways in which governments restrict access and surveil usage to manage contentious politics. Evidence from studies of surveillance in non-democratic settings shows that regimes often allow digital communication to transform into protest when activism provides additional intelligence that can aid the regime in developing strategies of repression or cooptation. Information shortages appear to be the principal threat to regime instability, not collective action per se.


Evidence that Curtailing Proactive Policing can Reduce Major Crime

Nature Human Behavior (2017) 1: 730-737

(with Zachary P. O’Keeffe)

Abstract: Governments employ police to prevent criminal acts. But it remains in dispute whether high rates of police stops, criminal summonses, and aggressive low-level arrests reduce serious crime. Police officers target their efforts at areas where crime is anticipated and/or where they expect enforcement will be most effective. Simultaneously, citizens decide to comply with the law or commit crime based in part on police deployment and enforcement strategies. In other words, policing and crime are endogenous to unobservable strategic interaction, which frustrates causal analysis. Here, we resolve these challenges and present new evidence that proactive policing—which involves systematic and aggressive enforcement of low-level violations—is inversely related to reports of major crime. We examine a political shock that caused the New York Police Department (NYPD) to effectively halt proactive policing in late 2014 and early 2015. Analysing several years of unique data obtained from the NYPD, we find that civilian complaints of major crimes (such as burglary, felony assault, and grand larceny) decreased during and shortly after sharp reductions in proactive policing. The results challenge prevailing scholarship as well as conventional wisdom on authority and legal compliance, as they imply that aggressively enforcing minor legal statutes incites more severe criminal acts.



The Rebel Alliance Strikes Back: Understanding the Politics of Backlash Mobilization

Mobilization (2017) 22(1): 39-56

(with Christian Davenport)

Abstract: How does repression influence “backlash” (i.e., challenges against political authorities that follow acts of government coercion/force)? This study argues that to adequately address the topic, it is necessary to open up a social movement and examine why specific individuals within the same social movement increase their participation following repression while other members drop out. To investigate the topic of interest, the study uses original panel data on organizational behavior and individual participation in a black-nationalist insurgency called the Republic of New Africa. Results show that the effects of repression are more complex than previously imagined. At the organizational level, repression leads to backlash challenges. At the individual level, however, repression has mixed effects. Challengers who personally experience repression become more likely to participate in post-repression challenging activities. At the same time, those within the organization who did not directly experience repression withdraw.




Political Repression and the Destruction of Dissident  Organizations: Evidence from the Archives of the Guatemalan National Police

World Politics (2016) 68(4): 645-676

Abstract: How does repression influence overt, collective challenges directed against political authorities? To date, answers to this question have been mixed. This study argues that recent work has been unable to adequately address the topic of interest because it has directed the bulk of its attention towards repression’s impact on local civilians, while granting less consideration to dissident organizations. The study develops an organizational theory of challenger development and specifies predictions for how repression’s effects on dissent are contingent upon the types of organizational behaviors targeted with coercion. The analysis employs original micro-level data collected from previously confidential Guatemalan National Police records to assess the effects of repression during the years 1975-1985. Results show that the effects of repressive behavior are more complex than previously imagined. When repression targets the clandestine activities necessary to develop and sustain dissident organizations (such as holding meetings, training participants, and campaigning for funds), dissent declines significantly. But when repression is directed at ongoing challenges, it motivates a backlash that escalates dissent. Implications are drawn for how we understand and study political order and conflict.


Replication Materials


Undermining Resistance: Mobilization, Repression, and the Enforcement of Political Order

Journal of Conflict Resolution (2016) 60(7): 1160-1190

Abstract: This study examines attempts by authorities to undermine overt collective challenges, such as riots, protests, and acts of terror, by targeting activities that precede and/or support such behavior. After providing a theory of how repression and resistance develop, the study examines unique data drawn from the confidential records of the Guatemalan National Police to assess the use of repressive action during the years between 1975 and 1985. Empirical tests confirm that 1) government forces anticipate challenger development by identifying the mobilization activities nascent challengers rely on to initiate and sustain overt collective challenges; and 2) that the use of repression to undermine such efforts is specifically designed to contain the spread of radical (i.e., highly transformative) mobilization. Implications are drawn for how we understand and study political conflict and order.



Doing Harm by Doing Good? The Negative Externalities of Humanitarian Aid Provision During Civil Conflict

Journal of Politics (2015) 77(3): 736-748

(with Reed Wood)

Abstract: Humanitarian assistance is intended to ameliorate the human costs of war and other disasters by providing relief to vulnerable populations. However, the arrival of these resources into conflict zones may influence subsequent violence patterns and expose intended recipients to new risks. Herein we investigate the potential impact of humanitarian aid on civilian victimization. We argue that humanitarian aid encourages state-sponsored violence against civilians by providing rebels with easily exploitable resources, undermining regime authority in proximate areas, and increasing counterinsurgent difficulty in distinguishing neutral civilians from rebel collaborators. Humanitarian aid promotes insurgent violence by encouraging looting and forced recruitment and because insurgents may perceive it and the organizations that deliver it as a threat to their authority. We evaluate both arguments using spatially disaggregated data on aid and conflict violence for a sample of nearly two-dozen post-Cold War African countries. The results of multiple statistical analyses provide support for our arguments.



The (In)Effectiveness of Torture for Combating Insurgency

The Journal of Peace Research (2014) 51(3): 388-404.

(runner up – 2014 Nils Peter Gleditsch JPR Article of the Year Award)

Abstract: It is commonly believed that torture is an effective tool for combating an insurgent threat. Yet while torture is practiced in nearly all counterinsurgency campaigns, little evidence supports these claims. This study provides the first micro-level statistical analysis of torture’s relation to subsequent killings committed by insurgent and counterinsurgent forces. Monthly municipal-level data on political violence are used to analyze torture committed by counterinsurgents during Guatemala’s civil war. Using data compiled from 22 different press and NGO sources as well as thousands of interviews, the study estimates how torture is related to short-term changes in killings perpetrated by both insurgents and counterinsurgents. While killings by counterinsurgents are shown to increase following torture, torture appears to have no robust correlation with killings by insurgents.



The Northern Ireland Research Initiative: Data on the Troubles 1968-1998

Conflict Management and Peace Science (2014) 31(1): 94-106.

(with Cyanne Loyle and Christian Davenport)

Abstract: In recent years the study of conflict has increasingly focused on the study of violence at the sub-national level. To data, this work has primarily been concerned with dissagregating specific political-economic characteristics such as economic development or natural resources with some attention being given to dynamic interactions between governments and challengers. Despite many advances, these efforts have been unable to address key questions within the literature concerning the later inquiries. In this paper, we present a new data project, the Northern Ireland Research Initiative or NIRI, and identify the ways in which this effort is particularly well suited to advance our understanding of outstanding areas of interest. NIRI is a dissagregated events-based dataset relying on new sources of conflict data that includes a broader range of actions (e.g., more localized, short-term events and more aggregate/larger-scale long-term activities) over the period of the Troubles in Northern Ireland (1968-1998).


Blood in the Village: A Local-Level Examination of State Massacres

Conflict Management and Peace Science (2012) 29(4): 373-396.

Abstract: Although policymakers, NGOs and academics have all expressed interest in accounting for the causes of massacres, it is still unclear why this type of violence takes place. The present article identifies how strategic incentives can motivate states to commit massacres in particular settings. The article contends that massacres are committed to pursue two strategic goals: threat removal and projecting state control over territory. This theory is tested using local-level data from Guatemala’s Commission for Historical Clarification. The results have significant implications for how we understand, study as well as attempt to reduce state massacres.


The Coercive Weight of the Past: Temporal Dependence in the Northern Ireland “Troubles” Conflict-Repression Nexus

International Interactions (2012) 38(4): 426-442

(with Cyanne Loyle and Christian Davenport)

Abstract: After 40 years, we still know very little about how state repression influences political dissent.  In fact, to date, every single influence, including no influence, has been found.  We argue that part of the problem concerns the current practice of treating every repressive event as if it were substantively equivalent, differentiated only by scope (large/small) or type (violent/non-violent). We advance existing work by arguing that repression’s influence is contingent on when it occurs within the temporal sequences of political conflict. Using new events data on the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland from 1968 to 1974, results show that when dissent has been decreasing in the recent past, repressive action inspires an increase in dissident action. When dissent has been increasing, however, repression has the opposite effect, decreasing dissident activity. These results provide important insights into resolving a recurrent puzzle within the “Conflict-Repression Nexus” as well as understanding the interaction between government and dissident behavior.


Book Project

Why Not Rebel? The Micro-foundations of Political Order


Additional Research in Progress

“Repression and the Death of Radical Politics: Evidence from Guatemala”


“Crime and Governance: Rethinking the Relationship between Courts and Human Rights”

“The Puzzle of Democratic Repression: The Case of the British Security Forces in Northern Ireland, 1969-1998” (with Christian Davenport and Cyanne Loyle)

“Who Rats? An Empirical Analysis of Defection During Political Arrests” (with Christian Davenport and Kraig Beyerlein)

“The Imprisoner’s Dilemma: Using a Natural Experiment to Examine How Enforcement Affects Compliance with Political Authority” (with Zach O’Keefe)

“Killing in the Name of: An Analysis of the Transfer of Policing Power from Public to Private Authority” (with Matthew Vallasik)

“Organized Chaos: Revolutionary Politics, Design, and Architecture”