Nampula City


I study civil wars and the emergence of informal institutions of security governance. Under what conditions does civil war violence create new informal security institutions that challenge the state monopoly of force? What types of order emerge and why? What are the consequences of new informal institutions of security governance for violence during and beyond civil war? This research lies at the intersection of international relations, comparative politics, and political sociology. I strive for an interdisciplinary approach and combine theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches from political science, sociology, history, and anthropology. I put particular emphasis on in-depth fieldwork and combine qualitative with quantitative research methods.

Work in Progress

State-Militia Collaboration and Political Order in Civil War

NWO Veni Project funded by the The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research

Governments in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan have mobilized militias to defend the state and the local population against armed rebellion. The empowerment of such progovernment armed groups has varying consequences for security and political order in conflict-ridden states. Recent headlines like “Afghan Militia Leaders, Empowered by U.S. to Fight Taliban, Inspire Fear in Villages” (Goldstein 2015), “Power Failure in Iraq as Militias Outgun State” (Parker 2015), and “Chaos Grows in Darfur Conflict as Militias Turn on Government” (Lacey 2005) support the notion that empowering militias leads to disastrous outcomes. But contrary to what such war reports suggest, the disruption of political order and security by militias is not inevitable. In civil wars in Mozambique, Peru and even Afghanistan, many militias neither mounted a serious challenge to state power, nor threatened the population. Instead, they allowed the state to restore order and security. Under what conditions does state-militia collaboration sustain or disrupt political order? More specifically, under what conditions do militias target state institutions and the local population or refrain from doing so? This project develops a new theory of the impact of state–militia collaboration on political order—the extent to which militias exercise state functions and perpetrate violence against the local population. It analyzes subnational variation of state–militia collaboration during the Mozambican civil war for the purpose of theory development and tests implications for the macro-level in a cross-national analysis of state–militia collaboration in recent African civil wars. By elucidating the ambivalent effects of state–militia collaboration in civil war, the research seeks to critically interrogate the assumptions informing current policy in contexts such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The findings will provide insights into how militias can be made more accountable to the state and the local population and less susceptible to co-optation by violent entrepreneurs.

The Evolution of Violence During Mozambique’s Civil War (1976-1992)

Funded by the International Peace Research Association Foundation

Although the civil war in Mozambique (1976-1992) had important geopolitical implications and severe humanitarian consequences, its systematic study is relatively limited in comparison to other armed conflicts. One reason is the dearth of available data, in particular on the subnational level. Cutting-edge research of civil wars, however, requires fine-grained subnational data to uncover the microfoundations of insurgent mobilization, violence against civilians, rebel governance, and displacement. This project makes use of the author’s unique collection of primary documents from Mozambican archives to create a dataset of violent events during the Mozambican civil war to facilitate systematic analysis of variation in wartime violence across space and time. The project contributes to our understanding of the local dynamics of war in Mozambique and the causes and consequences of political violence more generally.

Militias and the Dynamics of Civil Wars

Civil war, violence and insecurity give rise to a variety of new forms of order. In my dissertation, I focus on a particular form of order in civil wars: the mobilization of community residents into militias that exist outside of the formal security apparatus of the state to resist wartime violence. Few studies have studied militias systematically, and thus my dissertation builds the foundation for a new research agenda on “third” actors in civil wars. I develop a theory to explain the timing and location of militia formation, and militia’s mobilization process to recruit new members. The theory takes into account the strategic, institutional, and cultural context that shape people’s future expectations of violence and thus their inclination to form militias. I evaluate the theory using qualitative and quantitative evidence from over 250 oral histories and semi-structured interviews and more than 10,000 pages of government documents collected during one year of fieldwork in Mozambique.