New call for papers (deadline feb 18 2019):Political Dynamics After Civil War ECPR general conference

I am really excited to be co-chairing (with Matthew Whiting, Univ. of Birmingham) a section for ECPR General Conference in Wrocław, Poland September 4-7 2019 entitled Political Dynamics After Civil War. This is an open call for full panels or individual papers (see section description below). To submit, please go to the ECPR conference webpage and follow the instructions for submissions. Deadline 18 Feb. For questions, contact me directly.

I am delighted that the section is also endorsed by the ECPR Standing Group on Critical Peace and Conflict Studies. 

Here is the full call: 
This Section looks at the quality of peace and political dynamics after civil war, especially in cases that involved a rebel-to-party transformation. It will bring together a series of panels to examine a range of urgent and underexplored themes facing conflict studies today, including the organizational challenges facing former rebel parties; their influence on state building and peace building processes, and the meaningfulness of their engagement; democratization and institutional design following rebel transitions; the role of local dynamics (and their interaction with state and international processes) in the transformation of rebel groups and their subsequent trajectories; and the nature of governance and societal change after a rebel-to-party transformation, amongst others. It welcomes methodological diversity and innovation to encourage cross-disciplinary conversations about politics after civil war. In-depth case studies and large-N studies that engage in conversations across methodological boundaries are welcome. In addition, it welcomes empirical, theoretical and applied policy-focused research related to these themes.

Since 1990, nearly every peace settlement negotiated to end a civil war has been premised upon the construction or expansion of party-based electoral politics. Integral to these agreements are provisions for former war contenders and rebel groups to transform into political parties that compete for voter support to gain access to power. Even in places where civil wars ended in one-sided victories (as in Sri Lanka and Angola) or where new states have been formed (as in Kosovo, East Timor and South Sudan), the introduction of multi-party systems and electoral democracy were integral to these countries’ new constitutions.

Indeed, over the past decade an important body of research has emerged that examines the processes by which former rebel organizations transform into political parties, focusing on both the organizational challenges of transition and the impact of these transformations on political settlements. Recently, scholars have also examined how rebel group successor parties adapt to electoral politics and on the links between the wartime rebel group dynamics and their post-war political behaviour. We are thus gaining a better understanding of the conditions under which rebel group-to-political party transformation occurs, the intra-organisational dynamics that influence party behaviour, and how such parties adapt to the electoral game.

Yet significant gaps in our knowledge and understanding of these processes remain, especially when it comes to longer term processes around political and societal transformation and their effects for democratization, peace building and state building. What is lacking in our current understanding of “post-civil war political dynamics” is a deeper and more systematic analysis of how the legacies of armed conflict and the post-war dynamics of political contestation, from the national to the local, shape these key processes in the decades after civil war has ended.

For example, one area to explore further is to explain variation in whether and why some former rebel groups seem to be better equipped to fulfil a party’s role in raising the voice of minorities or marginalized groups than others. While scholars of democratization have explored institutional mechanisms to mitigate conflict, our insights about institutional design often rest on the assumption that the political parties operating in those institutions effectively represent key societal groups. But do they? To what extent are these parties effective advocates of policies and if so which policies? These questions are important for deepening our understanding of how the key stake-holders to the civil war contribute to the urgent tasks of governance that directly impinges on long-term conflict resolution and development.

Another under-explored area relates to the nature of former rebel groups political participation, especially their electoral participation. A number of scholars agree that armed groups may be born of governments’ exclusionary practices, such as social, political and economic repression of minorities. The corollary of this is that with political inclusion of former armed groups through electoral competition, alongside institutional reform to enhance minority group representation (such as ethnic quotas, regional autonomy provisions or proportional representation), their reliance on coercive measures will diminish. But this depends on how well parties are able to aggregate and articulate the interests and grievances of their constituents. This raises questions such as, how meaningful is the electoral participation by former rebel groups in politics? Are these parties exerting a durable force on the character of politics, or does organizational weakness or the emergence of new cleavages render them increasingly less relevant over time? To what extent do war-related factors trump the effects of institutional design?

The role of former armed groups in ‘precarious state-building’ processes merits additional attention. Scholarly debates to date have focused mainly on international interventions, paying less attention to how domestic political elites and local agencies shape state building. The observable patterns and dynamics of the political conversion trajectories of rebel groups speak directly to both the capacities and limitations of former rebel groups as state builders. As Tilly has argued, understanding state-building requires us to take into account the “coalitions, rivalries, and confrontations between major political actors outside of the state.” Given that many armed groups mobilised around a discourse of demanding enhanced representation and fundamental state transformation, a central question remains whether and how that discourse and goal is manifested in the post-war era. To what extent do rebel group successor parties – and other political elites – contribute to inclusive state-building? This requires further weighing in existing societal divides and how these are challenged and replicated inside or outside the former armed groups, for example in relation to gender relations, class cleavages or ethnic divisions. How are these dynamics influenced by multitude of interactions between other actors, including international, domestic and local agents?

The section is organised by the Politics After War Research Network (www.politicsafterwar.com). We invite full panels and individual papers that broadly fall within the realm of the section topic. The section aims to place scholars at different stages of their careers in conversation with each other, in order to encourage, inspire and create dialogue between the fields of critical peace and conflict studies and political party research.

Tamil Political Activism: A way out of Sri Lanka’s Crisis?

Here is a link to my piece in the Globe Post: Tamil Political Activism: A Way out of Sri Lanka’s Crisis? co-authored with Jacqueline Cho.

The article draws on my research on post-conflict political parties.

The op-ed discusses the scope for Tamil political activism in light of Sri Lanka’s recent political crisis. It argues that President Sirisena’s decision to dismiss the Prime Minister and replace him with the former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, represent serious set-backs for Tamil minority politics and any progress towards reconciliation made since 2015.

We also provide a prescriptive conclusion included here:

The crisis calls for a broad pro-democratic front as witnessed by growing political activism that bridges ethnic and other divisions across Sri Lankan society. Perhaps the period of relative openness has provided the broad-based alliances necessary to prevent a descent into authoritarianism.

Opportunity for Research Assistance

I am currently looking for new research assistants to work with me on the Post-conflict political parties project. The work includes literature review and online data collection about political parties and former armed groups’ political process engagement. Some knowledge or familiarity with politics in the Balkans (Kosovo and/or Bosnia Herzegovina) or post-war contexts in Asia (esp Sri Lanka or East Timor) is very welcome, although not a prerequisite. If interested, please do get in touch for more information.

Perfect for PhD students or MA/MPhil students looking for some work out of term – or BA-students with some advanced expertise and skills at working independently. Work can be done remotely, but you need to be UK-based with right to work in the UK.

Research Assistant Opportunity: Politics After War Research Network

The Politics After War Research Network is a research network that brings together scholars and practitioners working on topics related to rebel group reconversion, political parties, state-building and governance in post-civil war contexts. The network’s activities include academic workshops, collaborative publications and research projects as well as public dissemination.

I am looking for a part-time research assistant to develop the network’s online profile and assist with pending administrative tasks related to the network’s activities. The RA’s main tasks will include:

  • Developing the Politics After War Research Network’s webpage
  • Write texts for the webpage in collaboration with the project leader
  • Help organise the next network conference to be held in April 2018

The hours are flexible and negotiable, but I am initially looking for up to 10 hours per week on average for a total of 150 hours with the possibility for more. Pay-grade 5 (pre-PhD). Contact me for more information or submit CV and cover letter by December 12. Details here: RA_PoliticsAfterWarNetwork_Ad

Call for papers 2018 Politics After War Research Network Conference, April 19-20

This call has passed: You can find a summary of the conference here

Conference on Rebel Group Inclusion and the Effects on Democracy, Jesus College, Cambridge April 19-20, 2018: Please propose abstracts to the organisers by December 15, 2017. Conference invitation_Ishiyama&Sindre_April 2018

Workshop call – deadline 11 Nov 2017: Former armed groups and statebuilding

This call has passed! You can read a summary of the workshop here

Workshop call – deadline 11 Nov! Former armed groups and the politics of statebuilding after war

Workshop on January 9th in Cambridge: “Given that many armed groups were formed on the basis of projecting radical ideas about state transformation, how do their ideological and ideational foundations influence the ways in which they continue to govern or engage in politics after conflict? In other words, how do they practice politics in peace times?”

call-for-papers_armed-groups-workshop_9jan2017