From Survival to Assertiveness: Civilian Political Engagement in the Shadow of War

Kellogg Institute Graduate Research Grants
Grant Year

Why do civil wars lead to increased political engagement in some communities but not in others in the post-conflict period? And why do wars lead to the formation of anti-democratic political identities in some cases and inclusive democratic identities in others? The political science literature has yielded contradictory findings, concluding that wars increase democratic political engagement in some cases, and decrease it in other cases. These contradictions are mainly due to the fact that the mechanisms linking wartime victimization to post-conflict political engagement are often left unspecified. Using Guatemala as a case study, my theory of post-war political engagement hypothesizes that the political identities civilians acquire as a result of conflict explain variation in patterns of political behavior in post-conflict. My research combines interviews and archival work with focus groups, behavioral games, and a survey of local leaders to test this hypothesis.