Research Interests

My research engages the fields of international relations and comparative politics. Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, I investigate questions relating to civil war, armed non-state actors, terrorism, human security, and political violence. My work often focuses on these topics in sub-Saharan Africa. Taken together, my research provides insight into the micro-foundations of armed conflict and human security.


Dissertation Project: "Rebel Leaders and the Management of Rebel Organizations in Armed Intrastate Conflict" 

How do rebel leaders influence the behavior of their organizations within the constraints of the conflict environment? In this project, Rebel Leaders and the Management of Rebel Organizations in Armed Intrastate Conflict, I speak directly to this theoretical and empirical puzzle. This project, which is supported by multiple research grants from the University of Georgia, highlights the prewar political and military experiences of rebel leaders as well as their motives for conflict to explain how they shape three important wartime dynamics: group mobilization, organizational structure, and the risk of fragmentation. In doing so,  I demonstrate that accounting for variation in rebel leadership provides important leverage over the microfoundations of insurgent decision-making.

Evidence for the dissertation comes from a mixed-methodological research design. In the first stage, I test the generalizability of my argument in a series of statistical models, all of which use an original cross-national dataset featuring over 200 rebel leaders from 1989 to 2014. In the second stage, I describe the organizational structures and norms of command that characterized the UNITA insurgency in the Angolan Civil War (1975-2002). To supplement existing accounts, I acquired data from a series of semi-structured interviews and focus groups with former UNITA subcommanders and fighters, state military leaders, and non-combatants. This fieldwork research was conducted in various research sites throughout Angola in Summer 2018.


Peer-Reviewed Publications 

  • 2017. “Immigration Politics and Partisan Realignment: California, Texas, and the 1994 Election,” State Politics & Policy Quarterly, 17(1), 3-23. With James E. Monogan III. [article]

Papers Under Review

  • "A Motion of No Confidence? Leadership and Rebel Fragmentation." (Revise & Resubmit)

    • Why do rebel organizations splinter into competing factions during civil war? I contend that rebel leaders draw on their pre-war experiences to lead their organizations during conflict and, thus, that the risk of group fragmentation will correspond with variation in rebel leader type. Specifically, I leverage rebel leaders’ pre-war military and political experiences as well as their motives for conflict to explain the probability and timing of group fragmentation. Empirical evidence comes from a two-stage research design and original data featuring over 200 rebel leaders from 1989 to 2014. In the first stage, I estimate the probability of group fragmentation with a series of logistic regression models. In the second stage, I use Cox Proportional Hazards models to estimate leadership effects on the timing of group fragmentation. Results indicate that variation in rebel leadership corresponds with unique risks of rebel fragmentation. This study offers a novel approach to rebel leadership and important insight into the processes by which rebel groups splinter into armed factions.

  • "Risky Business: Foreign Direct Investment and the Economic Consequences of Electoral Violence." With Stephen M. Bagwell. (Revise & Resubmit)

    • Multiparty elections sometimes provide a flash point for violent unrest, evidenced by recent events of electoral violence in Benin, Zimbabwe, Angola, Kenya, and others. While the social and political consequences of electoral violence are widely discussed in the literature, less is known about the economic consequences of electoral violence. In this study, we investigate this dynamic, asking: how do episodes of electoral violence affect levels of incoming foreign direct investment? We argue that, when investing in foreign enterprises, multinational firms weigh the expected gains of investment with the probability that the host economy experiences significant lapses in political stability—or even devolves into violent conflict. Electoral violence signals a greater risk in both of these undesirable outcomes and, thus, constitutes an especially severe form of political risk. As such, we expect the probability of foreign direct investment to be negatively associated with recent events of electoral violence. Using firm-level data, we investigate the investment behavior of multinational firms in Sub-Saharan African countries from 1995 to 2008 with a series of multinomial logistic regression models. By directly modeling the unique choices that firms make with respect to yearly changes in investment, we demonstrate that firms are more likely to reduce the size of their investment in host countries following events of electoral violence. Conversely, electoral violence has no effect on a firm’s decision to increase levels of FDI.

  • “Sexual Violence Against Civilians and Rebel Fragmentation.” With Robert Nagel.

    • To what extent does sexual violence influence rebel group fragmentation? A substantial body of research explores wartime rape as a cohesion building mechanism following forced recruitment. However, the relationship between sexual violence and broader organizational cohesiveness has not been systematically tested. In this paper we provide this test with a study on the effects of sexual violence on the event of rebel group fragmentation. We argue that rebel sexual violence increases cohesion at the battalion level, but increases the risk of fragmentation of the broader organization. Specifically, we contend that rebel lieutenants are more likely to split from the organization if they are confident that their subordinate battalions are cohesive and will follow them rather than remain with the organization. We test this argument on a global sample of 105 rebel organizations active between 1989 and 2014. The results provide robust support for the argument showing that sexual violence increases the risk of fragmentation by a factor of four. This presents a crucial contribution to our understanding of both rebel group fragmentation and sexual violence and has important policy implications.

  • “Unwelcome Guests? Foreign Fighters and Anti-Civilian Violence in Civil War.” With John D. Willingham.

    • Foreign fighters have long crossed borders to participate in the internal conflicts of other countries. These actors offer a number of assets to rebel leaders—e.g. increased military capacity, tactical expertise, and monetary allowances—but also pose a unique set of challenges, namely, an increased risk of agency loss. We argue that this dynamic is especially evident in the relationship between foreign fighters and local civilians. We estimate a series of negative binomial regression models on a sample of 85 conflict dyads from 1989 through 2013. Results from these models indicate that foreign fighters significantly deteriorate conditions for non-combatants in theaters of intrastate war. To substantiate our causal mechanism, we evaluate historical accounts of the relationship between the "Afghan Arab" foreign fighters, local Bosnian commanders, and non-combatants as seen in the Bosnian War. This illustrative case study provides additional support for our argument that the higher levels of rebel-inflicted anti-civilian violence associated with the participation of foreign fighters is, in part, a function of systematic agency loss. The results of this study should be of interest to both academic and policy audiences. Our findings suggest that foreign fighters often pose (1) significant administrative challenges to the rebel organizations they join and (2) a considerable threat to the civilians living in contested conflict spaces.

  • “Follow the Leader: Rebel Leaders and Anti-Civilian Violence in Civil War.” With John D. Willingham.

    • Intrastate war produces a variety of personalities in leadership roles. Policymakers emphasize the individuals that manage rebel campaigns. Scholars, however, know relatively little about the processes by which rebel leaders shape the behavior of rebel groups in intrastate conflict—in particular, how they influence levels of rebel-inflicted anti-civilian violence. Civilians overwhelmingly bear the brunt of conflict violence. Yet this dynamic varies both by conflict and by armed groups within conflict spaces. This variation suggests that while all intrastate conflicts are violent, comparatively speaking, certain actors inflict higher levels of abuse against civilians than others.  We explain the observed variation in anti-civilian violence as a function of leader type. Toward this end, we conceptualize the roles of rebel leaders in warfare and offer a typology based on their motivation for conflict and military experience. Using original data, we find support for our argument.  Results suggest that a leader's prior military experience has a moderating effect on the use of violence against civilians, while leaders motivated by personal profit are far more likely to engage in civilian targeting. These results encourage further efforts to bring leaders back into analyses of intrastate war, with important implications for both scholars and policymakers.

Working Papers

  • "Foreign Fighters and Rebel Tactics in Intrastate Conflict."

  • “‘The Victory is the Mindset’: Jonas Savimbi and Cohesion in the UNITA Insurgency.”

  • “Elections and the Proliferation of Rebel Groups in Civil War.” With Travis Curtice.

  • "Next Door or Next of Kin? Disaggregating Contagious Conflict & Preemptive Repression.” With Chad Clay.

  • “Warlords, Complicit Publics, and Civil Conflict.” With Scott Gates, Kaare Strøm, and John D. Willingham.