Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Studying the Arab World After the Arab Spring

Political scientists weighed in on new directions and opportunities for research in the region at the 2012  Project on Middle East Political Science (POMEPS) Annual Conference.  Participants were asked: “What new and innovative research questions do you think have become particularly urgent, feasible, or relevant? How would those research questions fit into wider debates in the field of political science?”

Their answers, and my own modest offering, can be found in a new POMEPS briefing.   The briefing contains memos from political scientists with expertise in a variety of countries of the Arab World.

POMEPS was created in 2010 in part to build the capacity of Middle East experts to engage and inform policy-makers, the public sphere, and other political scientists about the region. Marc Lynch, its founder, describes POMEPS and the discussions at the recent conference here.

In Morocco,  the Arab Spring is not over for the activists of the February 20th movement.  They are planning protests for June 24th, against high prices, political arrests, and ongoing repression of the movement.  Some political cartoons, posted by February 20th activists recently:

Revolution's surprises:

And, against the plan to expand the high speed rail:


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Elections and Protest in Morocco

"In all likelihood, the elections will neither produce clear answers about Morocco's future, nor will they reveal just what it is that Moroccans want." Yes, Morocco continues to chart a course between revolution and acceptance of the status quo. See my piece on Foreign Policy's Middle East Channel.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why Violence? Getting the causal story right

Nationalist conflict has been one of the most pervasive and intractable types of conflict in the modern era. In some places, nationalist conflict has entailed lengthy wars, terrorist campaigns, and rural insurgency. Yet in many others, nationalist organizations have pursued peaceful strategies, engaging in bargaining, diplomacy, and popular protest. Why do some nationalist movements turn violent, whereas others remain primarily peaceful?

In this recent paper, I draw on nationalist struggles in the French Empire to illustrate a new theory of the onset of violence. Many existing explanations for civil war and conflict focus on factors that are stable - like poverty, inequality, rough terrain, or regime type. But these factors can only get us so far because they tell us little about why violence erupts at particular points in time. We need explanations that can tell us why a conflict erupts in a particular place at a moment time. In other words, we still need to know about the triggers of violence in particular contexts. This paper shows that nationalist violence in the colonial world erupted when colonial states pursued policies to restrict nationalist opposition and repress leading nationalists, creating a leadership vacuum and encouraging new nationalist actors to use violence to vie for influence. These kinds of triggers are still present in conflicts today.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Unrest in the Middle East

Talking 'Bout a Revolution

On Tuesday, Tarek Masoud, Ellen Lust, Adel Allouche and I gave our views on the protests in Tunisia and Egypt at this teach-in. Fearing the U.S. move toward propping up dictatorship, I advocated less involvement by the U.S., and argued that U.S. security interests would not be threatened by democracy or continued autocracy. You can watch the full discussion here.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Erica Chenoweth and Adria Lawrence, eds. Rethinking Violence: States and Non-State Actors in Conflict (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2010).

States, nationalist movements, and ethnic groups in conflict face a choice between violent and nonviolent strategies. Although major wars between sovereign states have become rare, contemporary world politics has been rife with internal conflict, ethnic cleansing, and violence against civilians. This book asks how, why, and when states and non-state actors use violence against one another, and examines the effectiveness of various forms of political violence.

The essays make two innovative conceptual moves. The first is to think of violence not as dichotomous, as either present or absent, but to consider the wide range of nonviolent and violent options available and ask why actors come to embrace particular strategies. The second is to explore the dynamic nature of violent conflicts, developing explanations that can account for the eruption of violence at particular moments in time. The arguments focus on how changes in the balance of power between and among states and non-state actors generate uncertainty and threat, thereby creating an environment conducive to violence. This innovative way of understanding violence de-emphasizes the role of ethnic cleavages and nationalism in modern conflict.

Buy the book from MIT Press or

Scholars on Rethinking Violence:

“Why do ethnic and nationalist movements sometimes turn to violence? And why do states sometimes indiscriminately attack or forcibly expel certain national or ethnic groups? The essays in Rethinking Violence offer fresh and empirically grounded answers to these important questions. This volume will interest political scientists, sociologists, historians, anthropologists, psychologists, students, and citizens interested in warfare, ethnic cleansing, insurgency, terrorism, and conflict resolution. Not least, it also offers important lessons for scholars and advocates of nonviolent resistance.”
Jeff Goodwin, Professor of Sociology, New York University, author of No Other Way Out: States and Revolutionary Movements, 1945-1991

“This volume gathers an impressive cast of young scholars who critically examine the use of violence by, and against, states using a rich array of methodological approaches and empirical cases. Taken as a whole, this collection highlights the promise of a bold research agenda that argues for understanding political violence as a dynamic process whose nature and timing are shaped by balance of power considerations rather than ancient hatreds or modern ideologies.”
Jason Lyall, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Yale University

“This pathbreaking collection forcefully destroys old paradigms and provides important new optics through which to study violence in war.”
Robert I. Rotberg, President of the World Peace Foundation and Former Director of the Program on Intrastate Conflict and Conflict Resolution, Harvard Kennedy School