Lay summary
Disaggregating Civil War

The sheer number of internal conflicts over the past years in regions, such as the Balkans, the Caucasus, and the Great Lakes of Africa, has led to a surge of interest in civil war. In recent years, political economists and quantitative researchers, partly funded by the World Bank, have told us a great deal about the conditions that make countries more likely to experience civil war. However, this does not mean that their results cannot, and should not, be questioned. We challenge some of the key assumptions and findings of the literature, in particular the putative irrelevance of ethnicity as a cause of conflict, the strong emphasis on opportunity structures at the expense of motivations, and the downplaying of transnational mechanisms.

Our project aims to re-examine these claims by uncovering relevant causal mechanisms. We do so by answering the questions about "Who?" and "Why?". A convincing explanation of conflict outcomes has to offer a disaggregated account involving real actors with real motives in their proper social and spatiotemporal context. Disaggregating conflict processes to uncover the key actor constellations driving conflict allows us to address our key research problems. First, it forces us to consider the ethnic identity of the actors involved in the centre-periphery relationship. Second, it demands a more precise understanding of the motivations and grievances of these actors. Third, we need to look beyond the boundaries of the nation-state to capture the transnational character of the actors.