Nampula City


I study civil wars, in particular how different forms of civilian collective action emerge and change the dynamics of war, and how (armed) conflicts evolve, escalate, and transform. 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.


Violent Resistance: Militia Formation and Civil War in Mozambique

Book published in Janaury 2022 with Cambridge University Press

Why do communities form militias to defend themselves against violence during civil war? Using original interviews with former combatants and civilians and archival material from extensive fieldwork in Mozambique, Corinna Jentzsch’s Violent Resistance explains the timing, location and process through which communities form militias. Jentzsch shows that local military stalemates characterized by ongoing violence allow civilians to form militias that fight alongside the government against rebels. Militias spread only to communities in which elites are relatively unified, preventing elites from coopting militias for private gains. Crucially, militias that build on preexisting social conventions are able to resonate with the people and empower them to regain agency over their lives. Jentzsch’s innovative study brings conceptual clarity to the militia phenomenon and helps us understand how wartime civilian agency, violent resistance, and the rise of third actors beyond governments and rebels affect the dynamics of civil war, on the African continent and beyond.

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.