Armed Group Institutions Database
Project #: 89
Name: Hoover Green, Amelia (firstname.lastname@example.org; 424-246-6325)
Department: History and Politics
Academic Area: History & Political Science/International Area Studies/Political Science/Psychology/Sociology
Title: Armed Group Institutions Database
Background: War is changing. Combatants (meaning soldiers, whether uniformed or irregular) used to make up the majority of casualties of war. These days, most wars don't have "front lines" and aren't fought on faraway battlefields -- and many, many more civilians are in harm's way. Consequently, understanding and preventing violence against civilians during armed conflict has become a priority for both human rights advocates and policy-makers. Research in social psychology shows us that soldiers' experiences of trauma and uncertainty make them much more prone to committing violence against civilians. My research builds from that insight, and to show that armed groups can prevent violence against civilians.â€¨â€¨ / / My research question: How do armed groups' internal practices (like training, education, or discipline) and their respect for human rights? Many violence-promoting factors (things like stress, trauma, fear, desensitization, sleeplessness, alcohol, and uncertainty) are present all the time during armed conflict. Instead of focusing on these factors thatÂ increaseÂ violence, in this project we look at additional factors that Â preventÂ and Â control Â violence. My research suggests thatÂ educationÂ and trainingÂ control violence by helping soldiers identify the purposes of the war. Soldiers who understand what they are fighting for, and why harming civilians is not compatible with that goal, are much less likely to harm civilians, intentionally or unintentionally.â€¨ / / What you will do: This summerâ€™s Humanities Fellow will work with another research assistant (a Research Co-op student whose position begins in April) to research characteristics of armed groups that prevent and control violence. Specifically, s/he will create â€œbiographiesâ€ of armed groups, paying special attention to their training and political education programs, their public and private statements about ideology and strategy, and any other features of the armed group that may affect how soldiers think about the purpose of the war. / / The â€œarmed group biographiesâ€ that my research assistants create will form the pilot phase of a large new data-collection effort. Beginning with a random sample of approximately 100 armed groups, the Armed Group Institutions Database (AGID) will grow to include data on all armed groups -- state groups, insurgencies, rebel organizations, and others -- involved in conflicts between 1980 and the present. For each group, the AGID will collect information on practices for recruiting, training, education, ideological indoctrination, and discipline. With the AGID we can conduct far more sophisticated analyses about the connection(s) between internal practices and behavior toward civilians. â€¨â€¨ / / Why does thisÂ matter?Â Preventing violence against civilians is a matter of life and death for literally millions of people. It is a matter of basic dignity and decency for millions more -- not just civilians but also the ex-combatants that I talk to in the course of my research. Many veterans live with crippling symptoms of post-traumatic stress, and many more are haunted by acts of violence they may have witnessed or committed during their service. Preventing violence against civilians means understanding "protective factors" that keep civilians and soldiers both safer.Â
Associated Independent Study:
The Humanities Fellow may choose to conduct a more in-depth study of one or more armed groups that s/he researches in the course of the Fellowship. I will work with the Fellow to identify important research questions related to armed group structure and performance, and to produce an article-length work of original research.
The Fellow will gain a clear, practical understanding of best practices in a large social science data collection project. S/he will also gain significant substantive expertise in armed group structures and practices, which could be useful for further research in any of the social sciences (e.g., sociology, psychology, political science).
The initial outcome of the work is a paper to be presented at the American Political Science Association annual meeting in late August. The research will also support my book manuscript and several articles. Perhaps most importantly, the data collected will become a public resource for other scholars and the policy community.
The Fellow will be researching and writing short "institutional biographies" of groups that contested wars around the world. The Fellow is expected to have extremely strong research and writing skills.
The work could take place anywhere -- much of the research will be via phone and internet -- but requires access to an academic library.
This is negotiable. However, it would be best if the student were in residence during the summer, and available to meet with me and the other research assistant at least once per week, for an hour or so.
Interview Availability: March 6