Winning Proposal to the Pierce Scholar's Fund: 2017 Competition

Project Title: Linking Civil War, Genocide, and Revolution

Faculty Sponsor: Scott Tyson

Graduate Student: Jessica Sun

Project Description

Why do some states experience civil war while others see revolutions or genocide? Political scientists have identified a number of factors that predict which states are at risk of experiencing all these forms of conflict with a fairly high degree of accuracy. However, we cannot determine which states marked by a set of risk factors will see conflict, and how that conflict will manifest, with the same degree of reliability. Studying civil war, revolution, and genocide as related forms of violence allows us to identify and leverage what is common between them and to explicate the mechanisms by which the same set of underlying conditions leads to each type of conflict. Empirically, these three forms of conflict are linked (Sun working paper 2017). This project will build on my working paper and develop a theoretical explanation both for the relationship between civil war, revolution, and genocide and why these forms of violence di↵er across conflict contexts.

Civil conflict can manifest in three ways: civil war, revolution, and genocide. We argue this grouping is natural because, by definition, these forms of conflict are in many ways similar. Civil war and revolution involve a challenge to the state and its government. Both civil war and genocide involve physical violence directed against citizens who may (or may not) have taken up arms against the state. Genocide, civil war, and revolution all involve lethal political violence. The realization of each form, we contend, is attributable to variation in relative capacity of states and challengers and a mismatch in the strategic anticipatory strategies of the two groups.