​The Dynamics of Civil War and International Conflict

Please note: This page refers to a course that has already taken place.

30 May 2016 - 03 Jun 2016

PRIO, Hausmanns gate 3, Oslo

Kristoffer Lidén



​​Professor Jeffrey T. Checkel, Simon Fraser University (jtcheckel@sfu.ca), and Professor Scott Gates, University of Oslo and PRIO (scott.gates@stv.uio.no).

​​​​​​​​​This course provides an overview and critical assessment of contemporary research on civil conflict.  It will be in equal measure backward looking, assessing the state of the art; what have we learned; and future oriented, exploring the cutting edge issues and challenges for students of civil war.   

The course is organized in collaboration between PRIO and UiO.

Course Description:

The first part of the course (sessions I - III) assesses what we now know about civil wars and international conflicts – why they break out, how they are sustained, how do they end – and how to think – conceptually, theoretically and methodologically - about dynamics and process.  The second part (se​ssions IV, VI - VIII) builds on the first to explore the cutting edge and where next questions; our focus here will be new work seeking to capture the dynamics of civil war and international conlict.  Among other issues, we will consider the roles of transnationalism; of bureaucracies, groups and organizations; of social processes; and insurgency-counterinsurgency dynamics in driving forward or constraining the evolution of such conflicts.

Reflecting the research interests of the instructors, the course will be plural in meta-theoretical (positivist, post-positivist), theoretical (political economy, political ethnography, sociological, constructivist, political psychology) and methodological terms (game theory, agent-based modelling, process tracing, case studies, interpretive approaches).



Day #1: Monday, 30 May


Session I (0900 - 1200): Civil War Research – State of the Art & Where Next

Sambanis, Nicholas, "Using Case Studies to Expand Economic Models of Civil War," Perspectives on Politics 2/2 (2004): 257-79.

Tarrow, Sidney, "Inside Insurgencies: Politics and Violence in an Age of Civil War (Book Review Essay)," Perspectives on Politics 5/3 (2007): 587-600.

Blattman, Christopher and Edward Miguel, "Civil War," Journal of Economic Literature 48/1 (2010): 3-57.

Blattman, Christopher, "Children and War: How 'Soft' Research Can Answer the Hard Questions in Political Science," Perspectives on Politics 10/2 (2012): 403-413.

Cederman, Lars-Erik, Kristian Skrede Gleditsch and Halvard Buhaug, Inequality, Grievances and Civil War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), Chapters 1, 3, 4, 6, 9.

​​Session II (1315 - 1630): Capturing Dynamics and Process – Causal Mechanisms

Johnson, James, "Consequences of Positivism: A Pragmatist Assessment," Comparative Political Studies 39/2 (2006): 224-52.

Gerring, John, "Review Article: The Mechanismic Worldview – Thinking Inside the Box," British Journal of Political Science 38/1 (2007): 161-79.

Bennett, Andrew and Jeffrey T. Checkel, Editors, Process Tracing: From Metaphor to Analytic Tool (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), Chapters 1, 7, 10.


Day #2: Tuesday, 31 May


Session III (0900 - 1200): Capturing Dynamics and Process – Modelling Causal Processes

Axelrod, Robert, The Evolution of Cooperation: Revised Edition (NY: Basic Books, 2006), Chapters 1-4, 6, 7, 9.

Smith, J. Maynard, "Evolution and the Theory of Games: In Situations Characterized by Conflict of Interest, the Best Strategy to Adopt Depends on What Others Are Doing," American Scientist 64/1 (1976): 41-45.

Epstein, Joshua M., "Modeling Civil Violence: An Agent-Based Computational Approach," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 99/10 Supplement 3 (2002): 7243-7250.

Session IV (1315 - 1630): Transnationalism and Civil War

The Baseline

Gleditsch, Kristian Skrede and Idean Salehyan, "Refugees and the Spread of Civil War," International Organization 60/2 (2006): 335-66.

Cederman, Lars-Erik, Kristian Skrede Gleditsch and Halvard Buhaug, Inequality, Grievances and Civil War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), Chapter 6 (REVIEW).

​Adding Dynamics and Process

Checkel, Jeffrey T., Editor, Transnational Dynamics of Civil War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), chapters 1-3, 6-7.

Simmons, Beth and Hyeran Jo, "Can the International Criminal Court Deter Atrocity?" International Organization (Forthcoming, Summer 2016).


Day #3: Wednesday, 1 June


Session V (0900 - 1200): Individual Meetings on Course Essays

Session VI (1315 - 1630): The Organizational Basis of Rebellion


The Baseline

Humphreys, Macartan and Jeremy M. Weinstein, "Who Fights? The Determinants of Participation in Civil War," American Journal of Political Science 52/2 (2008): 436-455.

Andvig, Jens Christopher and Scott Gates, "Recruiting Children for Armed Conflict," in Scott Gates and Simon Reich, Editors, Child Soldiers in the Age of Fractured States (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010), pp.77-92.

Adding Dynamics and Process

Beber, Bernd and Christopher Blattman, "The Logic of Child Soldiering and Coercion," International Organization 67/1 (2013): 65-104.

Gates, Scott, "Why Do Children Fight? Motivations and the Mode of Recruitment," in Alpaslam Özerdem and Sukanya Podder, Editors, Child Soldiers: From Recruitment to Reintegration (NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pp.29-49.

Gutierrez-Sanin, Francisco, "Dancing with Fire," Mimeo (Vancouver: School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, January 2016).

Manekin, Devorah, "The Limits of Socialization and the Underproduction of Military Violence: Evidence from the IDF," Mimeo (Vancouver: School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, December 2015).

Gates, Scott, "Membership Matters: Socialization and Rebel Group Allegiance," Mimeo (Oslo: PRIO, March 2016).


Day #4: Thursday, 2 June​


Session VI – Continued (0900-1100): The Organizational Basis of Rebellion

​Session VII (1100 – 1200, 1315-1630): Social Context of Civil War

The Baseline

Kalyvas, Stathis, "Ethnic Defection in Civil War," Comparative Political Studies 41/8 (2008): 1043-1068.

Østby, Gudrun, "Inequality and Political Violence: A Review of the Literature," International Area Studies Review 16/2 (2013): 206-231.


Adding Dynamics and Process

Wood, Elisabeth Jean, "The Social Processes of Civil War: The Wartime Transformation of Social Networks," Annual Review of Political Science 11 (2008): 539–61.

Cohen, Dara Kay, "Female Combatants and the Perpetration of Violence: Wartime Rape in the Sierra Leone Civil War," World Politics 65/3 (2013): 383-415.

Checkel, Jeffrey T., "Socialization and Violence," Mimeo (Vancouver: School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, December 2015).

Bateson, Regina, "Rethinking Socialization: The Case of Guatemala's Civil Patrols," Mimeo (Vancouver: School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, December 2015).

Fujii, Lee Ann, "Casting for Collective Violence," Mimeo (Vancouver: School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, December 2015).


Day #5: Friday, 3 June


Session VIII (0900 - 1200): Insurgency-Counterinsurgency Dynamics


The Baseline

Kalyvas, Stathis and Laia Balcells, "International System and Technologies of Rebellion: How the End of the Cold War Shaped Internal Conflict,' American Political Science Review 104/3 (2010): 415-429.

​​Buhaug, Halvard, Scott Gates and Päivi Lujala, "Geography, Rebel Capability, and the Duration of Civil Conflict," Journal of Conflict Resolution 53/4 (2009): 544-569.

Adding Dynamics and Process

Gates, Scott and Jason Miklian, "Strategic Revolutionary Phases of the Maoist Insurgency in Nepal," in Kaushik Roy, Editor, Insurgencies in South Asia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

Bennett, D. Scott, "Governments, Civilians, and the Evolution of Insurgency: Modeling the Early Dynamics of Insurgencies," Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation 11/4 (2008): 7. (http://jasss.soc.surrey.ac.uk/11/4/7.html)

Findley, Michael G. and Joseph K. Young, "Fighting Fire with Fire? How (not) to Neutralize an Insurgency," Civil Wars 9/4 (2007): 378-401. (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/13698240701699482)

Murshed, Syed Mansoob, "The Clash of Civilizations and the Interaction between Fear and Hatred," International Area Studies Review 14/1 (2011): 31-48.

Autesserre, Severine, "Hobbes and the Congo: Frames, Local Violence and International Intervention," International Organization 63/2 (2009): 249-80.


Deadline for applications: 31 March (only few places left!)

Submission of course essay: 3 September


Active Participation in Class Discussions: The course will be run as a seminar, where debate and discussion are the norm; for each session, written discussion questions will serve as our starting point.  For this format to be successful, students need to read the seminar readings prior to our first meeting on 30 May.

Preparation of Discussion Points: For each class session, students are required to prepare a brief list of discussion questions and comments (3-5 in number); these should be based on the readings and will be distributed to all other seminar participants.  (Please make sufficient copies for distribution!)  Your questions/comments should reflect a critical assessment of those readings. What are their strong and weak points? What are their meta-theoretical, theoretical, methodological, empirical contributions?  How do they relate to or build upon other readings or discussions?

Completion of an Analytic Essay: Students have two options.  (I) Prepare an analytic review on a topic that is of special interest and is consistent with the course's purpose and theme.  Or (II), prepare a draft research design for a PhD project on civil war where dynamics play some role.  In either case, essays should be 6000-10000 words and are due by 3 September 2016.  On the first day of class – 30 May - students should provide the instructors with a 2-3 pp. introduction to their proposed essay.  These overviews will then be discussed at one-on-one meetings on the morning of Wednesday, 1 June, 0900-1200, when there will be no formal class sessions.


The deadline for applications is 31 March 2016. Please fill in the electronic application form. PhD candidates should specify the topic of their project under 'Research interests'. PhD candidates get priority, but others with graduate studies from a relevant discipline may also apply. Please note that given the popularity of this course there are only few places left.

There is no participation fee, but the cost of transportation and accommodation must be covered by the participants. A limited number of stipends to cover basic accommodation at neighbouring Anker Hotel are available for PhD students who​​ do not have funding for such course participation through their universities or otherwise. If relevant, check the 'stipend' box in the application scheme.

If needed in order to make the necessary travel arrangements, PhD candidates who apply prior to the deadline may request an early evaluation of their application in an e-mail to Kristoffer Lidén (kristoffer@prio.no), with a cc. to Covadonga M. Bertrand (covi@prio.no). Please mark the e-mail [Dynamics of Civil War - early evaluation].


Course Literature:

The following three books – all available in paperback - should be acquired.

Axelrod, Robert. The Evolution of Cooperation: Revised Edition (New York: Basic Books, 2006).

Cederman, Lars-Erik, Kristian Skrede Gleditsch, and Halvar​d Buhaug. Inequality, Grievances, and Civil War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Checkel, Jeffrey T., Editor, Transnational Dynamics of Civil War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Students should access most other assigned articles and chapters through their local libraries.  A selection of hard-to-get readings (unpublished or forthcoming essays) will be made available on the course web page by late April.