Welcome to the blog of the European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on Political Violence. In this blog you will find timely articles and commentary, research news, job opportunities and other information relevant to scholars with an interest in understanding political violence.

Interpreting Political Violence

Section Chairs

Dr. Lorenzo Bosi, Scuola Normale Superiore

Dr. Niall Ó Dochartaigh, National University of Ireland Galway

This Section explores the cutting edge of new interpretive approaches to the study of political violence. Recent years have seen the introduction of several new interpretive approaches into this highly contested space, approaches that choose different places at which to draw the boundaries between war and terror, between politics and violence, and between ideology and interests. While different interpretations overlap much more than they did in the past, each has its own epistemological presumptions, methodological tendencies, and canonical truths. The Section will be structured to emphasize enduring and influential interpretations in the literature on political violence, while drawing attention to key, contemporary debates. This should serve as both a theoretical grounding and a map of the field, with the intention of highlighting exciting areas for further investigation.

Six Panels, listed below, have been selected from proposals by Standing Group members. The two additional Panels will give other scholars the opportunity to propose panels. 

You can now propose Panels (with a minimum of 3 Papers) and Papers through the ECPR website. The deadline for submissions is midnight UK time, Monday 15 February.

1. Narratives on Violent Groups: Reconciling the Contentious Politics and Interactionist Paradigms ?
Chair: Marie-Christine Doran, University of Ottawa
Co-Chair: M. A. Adib Bencherif, University of Ottawa

Research on political violence and radicalization in both the English and French-speaking worlds has recently seen the emergence of Social Movement Studies interpretations. However, one has been influenced by the contentious politics paradigm centered around contextualizing violence in order to understand the broader political processes, the reciprocal adaptations of the repertoires of action and the construction of collective identity. While the other has seen the emergence of the interactionist paradigm. While the contentious politics approach seeks to identify processes and dynamics that can help us explain causal links, the interactionist approach focuses on the sequences of actions in situ and is more attentive to the lived experiences of actors and their contingency. Our Panel seeks to engage a discussion surrounding these two approaches in the study of political violence and radicalization, in order to identify innovative ways to interpret these phenomena.

2. Reinterpreting Political Violence in History
Chair: Leena Malkki, University of Helsinki
Co-chair: Florian Edelmann, Aberystwyth University

Understanding the promises and challenges of historical research on political violence and the process of history-writing has not always been a strength of theoretical literature on political violence. While the literature on civil wars has stronger traditions on studying historical events, terrorism studies, on the other hand, is famous for its excessive focus on current events. This means in effect that the views on the historical terrorist campaigns tend to be based on hopelessly outdated information. The problem is strongly visible e.g. in how the terrorism literature remains largely untouched by the recent transnational turn in the “1960s literature”. This Panel welcomes Papers approaching political violence from the point of view of memory and history(writing), e.g. politics of memory, historiography, new interpretations of historical violent conflicts and methodological questions (e.g. use of oral history interviews and archival material).

3. Political Violence in the Information Age
Chair: Niall Ó Dochartaigh, National University of Ireland Galway
Co-chair: Sarah Marsden, Lancaster University

New information and communication technologies are working deep changes in patterns of political violence and the dynamics of civil war in the most directly material ways. This Panel welcomes Papers on all aspects of the relationship between new technologies and political violence, including papers on the way in which new technologies interact with temporal and spatial contexts, with ideology and with organisational structures. It also welcomes Papers that deal with the changing character of negotiation and mediation of political violence in the information age.

4. Civilian Agency in anti-Civilian violence
Chair: Francis O’Connor – COSMOS
Co-chair: Bahar Baser Coventry University

This Panel draws on the overlap between the literature on communal violence and on political violence. Recent work has focused on the strategic logic of insurgent targeting of civilians, emphasising competition for resources and territorial control. Arguably such approaches fail to account for civilian agency both as victims and perpetrators. This panel will address a number of key questions: How can we understand the status of civilians in instances of insurgent and communal violence? Are insurgent – civilian distinctions useful in disaggregating collective violence? At what point does civilian resistance to or participation in armed groups and militias render them no longer civilians? Under what conditions can civilian mobilisation prevent or inhibit violence against civilians?

5. A Socio-Spatial Relational Approach to Political Violence
Chair: Lorenzo Bosi, Scuola Normale Superiore
Co-Chair: Stefan Malthaner, Aarhus University

Armed groups, even clandestine ones, do not operate in isolation but are embedded in different forms of socio-spatial relationships that include interactions with broader movements, supportive milieus, and constituencies; notions of safe territories and territorial control, as well as economic exchange relations. This panel aims to explore how socio-spatial relations shape armed groups’ communication, information sharing, solidarity actions, networks coordination, and resource mobilization that enable and constrain their political and strategic options, including the resort to different violent repertoires, which, in turn, can re-configure the socio-spatial settings in which armed groups operate.

6. Gender, Inequality, and Political Violence
Chair: Stacey Scriver, National University of Ireland, Galway
Co-Chair: Jennifer McCleary-Sills, International Centre for Research on Women, Washington DC
This Panel welcomes both theoretical and empirically grounded Papers that consider political violence through a gendered lens. Areas of consideration include, but are not limited to: the relationship between violence in the private sphere and political violence; gender and political decision-making in contexts of conflict; intersections of political violence, gender and other forms of inequality (economic, ethno-nationalist, class, sexuality); masculinities and political violence; reconfigurations of political violence through a gendered perspective.

brave terrorists 4Condemnation is implicit in the word ‘Terrorist’. That much is widely recognised. But the term is so ubiquitous that even those who understand the difficulties find themselves obliged to use it. This is the case even if their principal purpose is to critique the field of terrorism studies and the concept, as critical terrorism studies does. Many who accept that the term is abused nonetheless argue that it gives us analytical purchase on certain kinds of violence and is useful to describe attacks whose goal is media coverage rather than military advantage, for example, or as a term for groups that seek to terrorise a civilian population rather than overcome a military opponent. But a search in Google Books’ Ngram viewer shows just how completely the condemnatory aspect of the term has overwhelmed the analytical. Ngram searches the millions of texts in Google Books for occurrences of certain phrases and the chart above shows the sharply rising usage in recent years of the most condemnatory adjectives in association with the word terrorist. References to ‘vicious terrorists’ and ‘cowardly terrorists’ have increased dramatically since the late 1990s but ‘evil terrorists’ has surged far ahead of them, as though cowardice and viciousness are not sufficiently damning accusations.

Untitled A search for ‘brave terrorists’ however, does not return a single result – from a collection of more than twelve million books. And yet there is no doubt that some of those who have been called terrorists were regarded as brave, even by some people who were broadly pro-western and pro-democratic in their orientation – in Mandate-era Palestine in the 1940s or Cyprus in the 1950s for example. Anyone who supports the use of violence that is dubbed terrorist is acutely aware of the condemnation inherent in the term. When they call people ‘brave’ they will of course avoid using a term that is so powerfully associated with evil, viciousness and cowardice. How much analytical value can remain then in a term that is virtually never given a positive valence? In this respect ‘terrorist’ may be the modern equivalent of ‘heretic’, an ostensibly analytical term whose precise meaning and boundaries are debated by the faithful, but one which is ideologically saturated and inherently negative. Governments and political actors of all kinds will continue to use the term ‘terrorist’ for those who oppose them with violence, and sometimes even for those who deploy civil disobedience. It resonates too powerfully to be abandoned as a rhetorical resource. And we will always need the terms terror, terrorise and other value-laden terms like war crime, atrocity and massacre to describe and condemn atrocious acts of violence. But given that the term has become virtually synonymous with evil, it might be useful for scholars of political violence to begin to think more systematically about how to do without ‘terrorist’ as an analytical category into which we slot people and groups.

Niall Ó Dochartaigh, National University of Ireland Galway, niallodoc.wordpress.com

Call for Panel proposals on Interpreting Political Violence

ECPR General Conference, Prague

7-10 October 2016

The Standing Group on Political Violence is supporting the organization of a section at the next ECPR general conference. This is a first informal call for panel proposals which fit with the general theme of the section.

How to submit a panel proposal: the panel proposal should consist of 1) title 2) chair and co-chair and 3) panel abstract (about 200 words) 4) send the panel proposal to lorenzo.bosi[at]sns.it no later than 25 October 2015. Later submissions will not be taken into consideration.

Panels that will be selected from amongst the panel proposals received. Selection criteria are: 1) panel proposal consistency with the general theme of the section; 2) relevance and novelty of the panel proposal topic; 2) university balance (meaning that the section will not have more than two panels organized by a chair belonging to the same university); 3) gender balance (meaning that we will try to have a section with an equal number of women and men acting as chair and co-chairs).

Please note that the selected panels will be part of the formal section proposal which has to be approved by the ECPR Academic Convenors. Therefore, when proposing a panel, be aware that sections may be rejected or approved with a reduced number of panels. In other words, panels accepted or even solicited for inclusion in a section proposal are by no means guaranteed inclusion in the final programme even if the section itself is accepted.

Title of Section

Interpreting Political Violence

Section Chairs

Dr. Lorenzo Bosi (Scuola Normale Superiore)

Dr. Niall Ó Dochartaigh (National University of Ireland Galway)

Interpreting political violence

This section explores the cutting edge of new interpretive approaches to the study of political violence, a field which is characterised by intense struggle over its boundaries and terms of debate. Recent years have seen the introduction of several new interpretive approaches into this highly contested space, approaches that choose different places at which to draw the boundaries between war and terror, between politics and violence, and between ideology and interests. While different interpretations overlap much more than they did in the past, each has its own epistemological presumptions, methodological tendencies, and canonical truths. The section will be structured to emphasize enduring and influential interpretations in the literature on political violence, while drawing attention to key, contemporary debates. This should serve as both a theoretical grounding and a map of the field, with the intention of highlighting exciting areas for further investigation.

We welcome panel proposals from a wide variety of perspectives that apply, or reflect on, competing interpretive approaches to political violence, including, but not limited to:

– Rationalist interpretations;

– Cultural interpretations;

– Social Movements Studies interpretations;

– Gender Studies interpretations;

– Geographical interpretations;

– Security/counter-insurgency interpretations;

The section aims to bring together distinguished scholars and younger researchers not only from political science, but from related disciplines, including economics, sociology, geography, anthropology, psychology, historical science, international relations, and area studies. In organising this section we seek to further the development of research on political violence in Europe and globally, to contribute to the further development of an international network of scholars working in this field and to promote the publication of outputs such as co-edited books or special issues of international journals.

Political Violence in ContextPolitical Violence in Context
Time, Space and Milieu
Lorenzo Bosi (Editor)
Niall Ó Dochartaigh (Editor)
Daniela Pisoiu (Editor)

£45.50 / €62.30
RRP: £65.00 / €89.00
You save: £19.50 / €26.70 (30%)

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781785521447
Page Extent: 324 pp

Context is crucial to understanding the causes of political violence and the form it takes. This book examines how time, space and supportive milieux decisively shape the pattern and pace of political violence. While much of the work on political violence focuses on individual psychology or radical ideology, this book takes a fresh and innovative look at the importance of context in generating mobilisation and shaping patterns of violence.

The cases dealt with in the book range widely across space and time, from Asia, Africa and Europe to the Americas, and from the Irish rebellion of 1916 through the Marxist insurgency of Sendero Luminoso to the ‘Invisible Commando’ of Côte d’Ivoire. They encompass a wide range of types of violence, from separatist guerrillas through Marxist insurgents and Islamist militants to nationalist insurrectionists and the distinctive forms of urban violence that have emerged at the boundary between crime and politics.

The book offers new theoretical perspectives on the decisive importance of the spatial and temporal contexts and supportive milieux in which parties to conflict are embedded, and from which they draw strength.

‘Time, space and milieux have for too long been silences in the research on social movements. This most welcome collection helps fill the gap through theoretical reflections and empirical evidence, and it contextualizes political violence, recognising the importance of contingency and agency within a relational approach.’
Donatella della Porta, European University Institute

‘This is an excellent volume which shows why, when and how social contexts shape the dynamics of violence. Combining theoretical insights with meticulous and wide ranging empirical studies from all over the world, this book makes a powerful case for the centrality of relational analysis in the study of violent conflicts.’
Siniša Malešević, University College Dublin

To reserve a copy of this book ahead of publication, email khawkins@ecpr.eu

Call for Papers
Islamic Radicalism and the Rise of the Islamic State
Root Causes, Diffusion and Responses
University of Cyprus, Department of Social and Political Sciences
Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to invite chapter proposals for an edited book on contemporary political and security challenges posed by the diffusion of Islamic radicalism and the emergence of the so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Chapter contributions are expected to be conceptually, theoretically and empirically coherent and based on robust methodological approaches. All proposals will go through a double blind review process. Proposals must be original and not published already or under consideration for publication by any other books or journals. Proposals must be in English, submitted in Microsoft Word format, Time New Romans, 12 font, max. 700 words, and sent together with a short author(s) biography. Selected chapter proposals will be drawn together and submitted for review to Routledge –Taylor and Francis Group.

Prospective contributors are kindly requested to submit chapter proposals by: 19th October 2015 to pavlosk@ucy.ac.cy and/or savvask@ucy.ac.cy

Authors will be notified about the status of their proposals by the 28thof October 2015. Approved chapter proposals will be sent out to the publisher, together with the overall book proposal by early November 2015.

Scope of the book

This edited collection of works aims to advance knowledge on the evolution of violent Islamic radicalism in the period following the US-led invasion of Iraq, and account for its contemporary growth and enduring impact on regional/global security. The edited book has a threefold objective reflected on three separate but interdependent thematic aspects.
Firstly, the proposed study seeks to provide a review of major underlying causes (ethno-religious divides, socio-economic aspects, migration etc.) and catalysts (2003 Iraqi-invasion, Arab Spring, Syrian Civil War) which helped breed and sustain Islamic militancy and radicalism in the Middle East and Europe. The book welcomes contributions on all perceived aspects of post-2003 Islamic radicalism and violence including economic (e.g. under-development, inequalities, resource scarcity etc.), social (e.g. exclusion, discrimination etc.), religious (ethno-religious dominance, fundamentalism, distorted worldviews etc.) and politico-military (western military intervention, minorities, oppression, governance, insecurity).
Secondly, the book wishes to provide an informed analysis of the origins, evolution and diffusion of the Islamic State’s ideology, and shed some light into the governing structures, propaganda and organization of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in the territories of Syria and Iraq (widely known as ISIS – Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIL -Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). Of particular interest is the systematic projection and rationale of shocking video images through social media, and the assumed impact such images have on popular perceptions.
Thirdly, the book aspires to conclude with a section focusing on international perceptions and policy responses to the increasing security pressures and threats posed by the terrorist acts of Islamic radicals and the Islamic State. This may well include studies drawn from the entire spectrum of policy responses, ranging from the recent military-centred operations (air-strikes) to diplomatic initiatives that could help defuse the alarming levels of violence, to policing, migration control and the adoption of counter-radicalization measures in Europe and beyond. Editors welcome contributions on the broader security threats and repercussions in the Middle East and South Eastern Mediterranean regions, which are considered to be part of the Islamic State’s sphere of ideological diffusion.
The book’s interdisciplinary nature is crucial for conceptualizing the endurance of Islamic radicalism and violence, and understanding better the emergence of an intrinsically peculiar Islamic regime through the adoption of different epistemic viewpoints. We would particularly welcome innovative contributions stemming from high-quality research that combine or crosscut broader academic areas of study such as political science, international relations, security studies, Islamic Studies, psychology, sociology, media and cultural studies.

Topics of Interest

Section A

• Underlying Causes of Islamic radicalism in the Middle East
• Regional Ethno-religious antagonisms and divisions
• Aftermath of military intervention in Iraq (2003)
• Islamic radicalism and the Arab Spring
• Syrian Civil War

Section B
• The Origins of the ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS)
• The Political Rule and Structure of the Islamic State
• Aims, Strategy and Tactics of ISIS
• ISIS and the Media
• The Psychological Impact of ISIS and Islamic Terrorism in the West
• Regional Implications of Islamic Extremism in the SEM region (Israel/Palestine, Cyprus, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey)
• ISIS and the Kurdish Question

Section C
• Military and Diplomatic Responses against ISIS
• EU Responses to Islamic Radicalism and Violence
• Islamic Radicalism and Radicalization processes in Europe
• Islamic Radicalism and Patterns of Migration

The Politics of Memory: Victimization, Violence and Contested Narratives of the Past.

Fifth Annual Conference of the Dialogues on Historical Justice and Memory Network

Columbia University, New York, 3-5 December 2015.

Paper Submission Deadline: 15 September 2015.


This conference aims to explore issues relating to memory, victimhood and violence. Possible themes include the changing nature and identity of victims and the theme of contested victimization, with a particular interest in topics that explore the anniversaries of historical violence and the way such events are remembered. Thus, for example, 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide; the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the first Nuremberg trial and the Tokyo tribunal; the 50th anniversary of mass violence in Indonesia; the 20th anniversary of Srebrenica. Papers are invited that reflect on how these events are being remembered, on the evolution and politics of these memories.

Other themes include papers that examine ways in which the status of victimization provides a rationale for violence, or, conversely cases in which victimization leads to reconciliation. Papers that focus on a historiography of what constitutes victimization—from the shame of victimhood to victimization as empowering are also welcome. Also welcome is work on victims of political violence, and histories of contested victimization.

Finally, papers are invited that explore the theoretical and empirical relationship between memory (individual, societal or international) and historical dialogue, with a particular focus on the issue of the efficacy of justice, accountability and reconciliation mechanisms.

The Dialogues on Historical Justice and Memory Network is coordinated by an international Steering Committee and the Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability (AHDA), at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR).

Please e-mail a 300-500 word abstract and a 2-3 sentence bio as well as contact information to ahda@columbia.edu no later than 15 September 2015. The abstract and bio should be sent as a single e-mail attachment. Applications for panels or roundtables are also welcome. For more information please see http://www.humanrightscolumbia.org/?q=ahda/conference


6th Annual Conference of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict: Legitimate Authority and Political Violence
28 – 29 August, 2015
Långholmen Hotel, Stockholm

“The Stockholm Centre is very pleased to be hosting the 6th Annual Conference of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict. This extremely successful conference series regularly brings together the very best scholars working on the ethics of war from philosophical, legal, political and practitioner backgrounds. *Please note that papers are pre-circulation only.* Sessions consist of a brief summary by the author, a thirty minute response and then an hour’s discussion. Papers will be available via the conference website from the 1st of August.”

The conference is free to attend and open to all. More information is available here



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 170 other followers