Civil Wars

Taught: S22, W24


December 26, 2023

Course information

Juan Tellez (pronounced: “Teh-yes”)

Tuesdays, 9:00 AM - 11:50 AM

Kerr Hall 593

Course description

This course is a graduate seminar on the study of civil wars and other forms of political violence. The course is designed to prepare graduate students to do research on these topics. Each week, we will cover a mix of “foundational” and new research in one of the key active research agendas in the study of civil wars. The weekly readings are primarily how students will: a) develop the basics of the literature; b) figure out which topic areas might drive their dissertation work.


  • Participation (10%). I will grade you on the quality of your participation in seminar. Being unprepared, not having done the readings, being absent, etc., will hurt your participation.

  • Weekly comments (10%). Each week you will post one bullet point comment per reading. The goal of your comment is to motivate discussion among your peers. You can raise questions about theory, method, point out conflicts between readings, develop links with previous weeks’ readings, whatever. Due by 5pm before each class.

  • Article review (20%): You will write one, three-page (or so, double-spaced) article review. Your review should eschew summary in favor of critically evaluating the paper (a good guide here). The goal is to make a recommendation to an editor (in this case: me) as to whether or not the paper should be published. If your recommendation is to “revise and resubmit” assume that implies a high probability of publication. Due January 22nd, 5PM.

  • Guest lecture (20%): You will prepare a lecture on the week’s topic and present for 30-40 minutes. The lecture should be aimed at an upper division undergraduate audience. Guidelines here. See the signup sheet for dates.

  • Replication (20%): You will replicate the primary findings of a paper of your choosing and then extend the paper in some interesting way. Guidelines here. Due Feb 23rd.

  • Research design (20%): 8-10 pages. Guidelines here. Due March 20th.. I encourage you to meet with me about your idea at least a few weeks before the deadline.

Course policies

Late proposals, papers, etc. will be penalized by a letter grade per day.


Note: the schedule is subject to change.

Week 1 – Jan 9 : What is civil war?


  • Stathis N Kalyvas and Laia Balcells, “International System and Technologies of Rebellion: How the End of the Cold War Shaped Internal Conflict,” American Political Science Review 104, no. 3 (2010): 415–429.
  • Laia Balcells and Jessica A. Stanton, “Violence Against Civilians During Armed Conflict: Moving Beyond the Macro- and Micro-Level Divide,” Annual Review of Political Science 24, no. 1 (May 2021): 45–69, doi:10.1146/annurev-polisci-041719-102229.
  • Nicholas Sambanis, “What Is Civil War?: Conceptual and Empirical Complexities of an Operational Definition,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 48, no. 6 (2004): 814–858.
  • James D. Fearon, “Civil War & the Current International System,” Dædalus 146, no. 4 (2017): 18–32.

Week 2 – Jan 16 : ‘Macro’ causes of civil war


  • James D. Fearon and David D. Laitin, “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War,” American Political Science Review 97, no. 1 (2003): 75–90.
  • David B. Carter, Andrew C. Shaver, and Austin L. Wright, “Places to Hide: Terrain, Ethnicity, and Civil Conflict,” The Journal of Politics 81, no. 4 (2019): 1446–1465.
  • Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler, “Greed and Grievance in Civil War,” Oxford Economic Papers 56 (2004): 563–595.
  • Cullen S Hendrix and Idean Salehyan, “Climate Change, Rainfall, and Social Conflict in Africa,” Journal of Peace Research 49, no. 1 (January 2012): 35–50, doi:10.1177/0022343311426165.

Week 3 – Jan 23 : Ethnicity and conflict


  • posen:1993?
  • Nicholas Sambanis and Moses Shayo, “Social Identification and Ethnic Conflict,” American Political Science Review 107, no. 2 (2013): 294–325.
  • Lars-Erik Cederman, Nils B Weidmann, and Kristian Skrede Gleditsch, “Horizontal Inequalities and Ethnonationalist Civil War: A Global Comparison,” American Political Science Review 105, no. 3 (2011): 478–495.
  • Chapter 2 in Fotini Christia, Alliance Formation in Civil Wars (Cambridge University Press, 2012).

Week 4 – Jan 30 : Political economy of conflict


  • Jack Paine, “Rethinking the Conflict Resource Curse: How Oil Wealth Prevents Center-Seeking Civil Wars,” International Organization 70, no. 4 (2016): 727–761.
  • Oeindrila Dube and Juan F Vargas, “Commodity Price Shocks and Civil Conflict: Evidence from Colombia,” The Review of Economic Studies 80, no. 4 (2013): 1384–1421.
  • Raúl Sánchez De La Sierra, “On the Origins of the State: Stationary Bandits and Taxation in Eastern Congo,” Journal of Political Economy 128, no. 1 (2020): 32–74.
  • Nathan Nunn and Nancy Qian, US Food Aid and Civil Conflict,” American Economic Review 104, no. 6 (2014): 1630–66.
  • Mark Irving Lichbach, “What Makes Rational Peasants Revolutionary? Dilemma, Paradox, and Irony in Peasant Collective Action,” World Politics 46, no. 3 (1994): 383–418.

Week 5 – Feb 6 : Rebel groups as organizations


  • The introduction in Jeremy M. Weinstein, Inside Rebellion: The Politics of Insurgent Violence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
  • Francisco Gutiérrez-Sanín and Elisabeth Jean Wood, “Ideology in Civil War: Instrumental Adoption and Beyond,” Journal of Peace Research 51, no. 2 (2014): 213–226.
  • David A. Siegel, “When Does Repression Work?: Collective Action in Social Networks,” Journal of Politics 73, no. 4 (2011): 993–1010.
  • Paul Staniland, “Organizing Insurgency: Networks, Resources, and Rebellion in South Asia,” International Security 37, no. 1 (2012): 142–177.

Week 6 – Feb 13 : Dynamics of violence in civil wars


  • Introduction, chapter 6, and chapter 7 in Stathis Kalyvas, The Logic of Violence in Civil War (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
  • Livia Isabella Schubiger, “State Violence and Wartime Civilian Agency: Evidence from Peru,” Journal of Politics (2019).
  • Sabine C. Carey and Neil J. Mitchell, “Progovernment Militias,” Annual Review of Political Science 20 (2017): 127–147.
  • Daron Acemoglu, James A. Robinson, and Rafael J. Santos, “The Monopoly of Violence: Evidence from Colombia,” Journal of the European Economic Association 11, no. S1 (2013): 5–44.

Week 7 – Feb 20 : Civil war duration and termination


  • David E. Cunningham, “Veto Players and Civil War Duration,” American Journal of Political Science 50, no. 4 (2006): 875–892.
  • Edward N. Luttwak, “Give War a Chance,” Foreign Aff. 78 (1999): 36.
  • Virginia Page Fortna, “Do Terrorists Win? Rebels’ Use of Terrorism and Civil War Outcomes,” International Organization 69, no. 3 (2015): 519–556.
  • Chapter 1 in Jonah Schulhofer-Wohl, Quagmire in Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 2020).

Week 8 – Feb 27 : Wartime displacement


  • Chapter 1 in Abbey Steele, Democracy and Displacement in Colombia’s Civil War (Cornell University Press, 2017).
  • Adam G. Lichtenheld, “Explaining Population Displacement Strategies in Civil Wars: A Cross-National Analysis,” International Organization 74, no. 2 (2020): 253–294.
  • Yang-Yang Zhou and Andrew Shaver, “Reexamining the Effect of Refugees on Civil Conflict: A Global Subnational Analysis,” American Political Science Review 115, no. 4 (2021): 1175–1196.
  • Emanuele Albarosa and Benjamin Elsner, “Forced Migration and Social Cohesion: Evidence from the 2015/16 Mass Inflow in Germany,” World Development 167 (2023): 106228.

Week 9 – Mar 5 : Peacekeeping and peacebuilding


  • Barbara F. Walter, Lise Morje Howard, and V. Page Fortna, “The Extraordinary Relationship Between Peacekeeping and Peace,” British Journal of Political Science 51, no. 4 (2021): 1705–1722.
  • Autesserre Séverine, “The Crisis of Peacekeeping, Why the UN Can’t End Wars,” Foreign Affairs 98, no. 1 (2019): 104–106.
  • Cyrus Samii, “Perils or Promise of Ethnic Integration? Evidence from a Hard Case in Burundi,” American Political Science Review 107, no. 3 (2013): 558–573.
  • Nicholas Sambanis and Jonah Schulhofer-Wohl, “What’s in a Line? Is Partition a Solution to Civil War?” International Security 34, no. 2 (2009): 82–118.
  • Michaela Mattes and Burcu Savun, “Information, Agreement Design, and the Durability of Civil War Settlements,” American Journal of Political Science 54, no. 2 (2010): 511–524.

Week 10 – Mar 12 : Political and social consequences of war

  • Michal Bauer et al., “Can War Foster Cooperation?” Journal of Economic Perspectives 30, no. 3 (2016): 249–74.
  • Rafael Ch et al., “Endogenous Taxation in Ongoing Internal Conflict: The Case of Colombia,” American Political Science Review 112, no. 4 (2018): 996–1015.
  • Jonathan D. Tepperman, “Truth and Consequences,” Foreign Aff. 81 (2002): 128.
  • Francisco Villamil, “Mobilizing Memories: The Social Conditions of the Long-Term Impact of Victimization,” Journal of Peace Research 58, no. 3 (May 2021): 399–416, doi:10.1177/0022343320912816.
  • Scott Atran and Robert Axelrod, “Reframing Sacred Values,” Negotiation Journal 24, no. 3 (2008): 221–246.


Guest lecture

You will:

  • Present for 30-40 minutes at the start of class on the topic of choice, aimed at an upper level undergraduate who has likely heard of the topic (e.g., in the news), but knows little about it
  • Your guiding prompt: “if you had to give advanced undergraduates a mini lecture on X, what would you say? What is crucial, most interesting, compelling, relevant, etc? What are the big questions, debates?”
  • Lecture should engage with existing literature, can reference some of the week’s readings, but cannot be solely about the week’s readings
  • The group will provide you feedback based on my rubric


You will:

  • Find a paper with available replication data
  • Visualize or summarize some interesting element of the data as a figure or table
  • Replicate the paper’s main findings + a key figure from the paper
  • Extend the analysis in a theory-driven way, for instance:
    • Looking at sub-samples where effects should be different based on your argument
    • Looking at interactions such that the effect of X on Y depends on Z (you need a compelling argument as to why Z should moderate the effect of X on Y and is interesting!)

The final output will be a Quarto document that can compile without error. I will provide a template.

Final research design rubric

10 pages MAX, double-spaced.

  1. Introduction (2 pages)
    1. Motivate why we should care about the question you want to answer (e.g., because of its real-world impact, as a gap in the literature)
    2. BRIEFLY preview what the project will do (I will argue that X) and how it will do it (I will collect XYZ data)
  2. Literature review (2 pages)
    1. Briefly describe what we already know about your topic
    2. Highlight what is unknown or what gap your project will fill
  3. Theory + hypotheses (3-4 pages)
    1. Big note: theory != literature review
    2. Need an argument about a causal process
    3. Think about who the actors are in your story, what they want, and how their interactions produce different outcomes
  4. Research design (2-3 pages)
    1. Data
      1. Where will the data come from? What is the unit of analysis (e.g., country-year)?
      2. How will you measure the outcome variable(s)? Treatment variable(s)?
      3. Identification strategy — how will you (try to) identify the effect of X on Y? If prediction, how will you select what variables to include in the model?
      4. Modeling strategy — how will you model the relationship?