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.

No comments:

Post a Comment