Jessica Maves Braithwaite is an assistant professor of political science in the School of Government and Public Policy at the University of Arizona. She received her Ph.D. (2013) and M.A. (2010) from Penn State University, and a B.A. (2008) from Iowa State University. Her research addresses dynamics of civil war broadly, with an emphasis on organizational responses to state repression and domestic unrest, as well as civilian experiences during conflict. She is a co-PI on two major data collection projects: one on the foundational organizations of rebel groups in civil wars (the Foundations of Rebel Group Emergence dataset – FORGE) and another on the organizational characteristics of violent and nonviolent anti-government resistance campaigns. Dr. Braithwaite’s work has been published in various academic journals including Journal of Politics, International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Peace Research, and Conflict Management and Peace Science.
Conflict Processes & War
Rebel Group Formation
Civil Conflict Negotiations
We examine the impact of governmental leadership changes on the civil war peace process. In line with the literature on leadership changes and interstate war, we argue that transitions can help overcome lags in the rational updating process, leading to negotiations and termination through negotiated settlements. However, while studies of interstate relations emphasize the role of "outsider" changes that produce new winning coalitions, we argue that due to the critical nature of credible commitment problems within the civil war peace process, only "insider" changes can generate the benefits of leadership change while mitigating uncertainty generated by leadership turnover. Using existing and original data on changes in governmental leadership, we find support for our expectations. Leadership changes can produce conditions favorable to negotiations and settlements, but only changes from inside the existing regime should be encouraged to avoid prolonging the conflict.
We offer a novel argument to explain how the use of terrorist violence is affected by the quality of elections. Opposition actors often decide whether and how to participate in elections. Governments influence these decisions by controlling who can contest elections and, by doing so, they influence the access to public support that opponents stand to gain from participating or fighting. "Unrestricted" elections, without participatory restrictions, represent an opportunity for moderation in politics. This moderation threatens the raison d'etre of violent extremists. Accordingly, extremists are likely to look to use violence to spoil good elections. "Restricted" elections, where opponents are excluded, undermine public support to the opposition as a whole, thereby reducing the likelihood that they are able to resort to terrorism. A series of negative binomial regression models provide support for these dual logics. Robustness checks demonstrate the validity of the findings using bivariate probit regression.
Combatants used sexual violence in approximately half of all civil conflicts since 1989. We expect that when groups resort to sexual violence they are organizationally vulnerable, unlikely to win, and as such they are inclined to salvage something from the conflict by way of a settlement. Using quantitative analysis of data on civil conflicts in the post-Cold War period, we find that a higher prevalence of sexual violence perpetrated by government forces precipitates negotiated outcomes. This is particularly true in contexts where both government and rebel forces utilize comparable levels of wartime rape and other forms of sexual abuse.
A critical element that is often overlooked when studying negotiations in civil wars is popular support for the peace process itself. This is particularly important when agreements are subject to ratification by the broader population, as was the case in the Colombian conflict with the FARC. Using survey data from 2014, we find that attitudes toward this peace process were driven by political preferences rather than conflict experiences. Some demographic traits (education, religion, and rural residency) were also important. Notably, these determinants of support for talks with the FARC map closely onto voting patterns in the October 2016 plebiscite.
What drives perceptions of fear regarding nonviolent mobilization? We investigate whether this fear is more acute in certain segments of society, or whether such concerns are randomly distributed across the population. We anticipate that civilians living in proximity to armed resistance groups are especially afraid of being targeted if they organize nonviolently against insecurity in their community. Using original survey data from Mexico in early 2014, we examine civilian perceptions of risk associated with nonviolent action. Quantitative analyses provide support for our expectation that civilians living in close proximity to armed vigilante groups are more fearful of participating in nonviolent action. This suggests that organizers of civil resistance in Mexico (and similar conflict environments) would do well to consider the challenges poised by civilian vigilantism when seeking to mobilize civilians and selecting specific nonviolent strategies for high-risk constituencies.
Literature on coup-proofing often suggests that such activities reduce military effectiveness, which could provide an environment ripe for civil conflict. However, if coup-proofing is dangerous, why do leaders engage in these strategies? We argue that a specific type of coup-proofing - purges - deters domestic unrest by demonstrating the strength of the regime via the removal of powerful but undesirable individuals from office. The strategic and intentional nature of purges signals to opponents that the regime is capable of not only identifying its enemies but also eliminating these threats. We use original data on military purges in non-democracies from 1969-2003 to assess quantitatively how this type of coup-proofing activity affects the likelihood of civil conflict recurrence. We find support for our expectation that purges of high-ranking military officials do in fact help prevent further civil conflict. Purges appear to provide real benefits to dictators seeking to preserve stability, at least in post-conflict environments.
Violent domestic conflicts spread between countries via spillover effects and the desire to emulate events abroad. Herein, we extend this emulation logic to the potential for the contagion of nonviolent conflicts. The spread of predominantly nonviolent pro-democracy mobilizations across the globe in the mid-to-late 1980s, the wave of protests in former Soviet states during the Color revolutions in the 2000s, and the eruption of nonviolent movements across the Middle East and North Africa during the Arab Spring in the early 2010s each suggest that the observation of collective action abroad encourages a desire to emulate amongst potential challengers to domestic autocrats. However, the need to emulate varies. Potential challengers with a recent history of protest at home are less dependent (than are those without similar experience) upon foreign exemplars to mobilize the participants and generate the resources required to make emulation practicable. By contrast, where the domestic experience of protest is absent, opposition movements are more reliant upon emulation of foreign exemplars. We test the implications of this logic using a series of multivariate logistic regression analyses. Our tests employ data on nonviolent civil resistance mobilizations that occurred across the global population of autocratic states between 1946 and 2006. These tests, along with post-estimation analysis provide evidence consistent with our conditional logic of emulation.
Does domestic political unrest deter foreign direct investment (FDI)? And what are the longer term impacts of unrest upon the market? Most theories suggest that investors are deterred by unrest. However, empirical research returns only marginal support. We argue that these mixed results stem from the conflation of the distinct tactics and outcomes of political unrest. Violent forms of unrest increase uncertainty and risk. By comparison, nonviolent forms of unrest are shown to more frequently achieve their goals and increase the prospects for democratic change and market stability. In addition, investors avoid markets where campaigns have ended in failure, defined as the campaign not achieving their stated political aims. Failed campaigns often precipitate a cycle of unrest that create greater uncertainty over the long-term stability of a state. We find strong evidence in favor of our propositions, even after taking political motivation and non-random selection into account.
We offer an account of civil conflict contagion in which we argue that in peaceful neighborhoods autocracies that provide an opportunity for legal participation in domestic politics — via elected legislatures — are able to offset violent demands for change from domestic opposition groups. We add, however, the expectation that these openings in the political institutions of the country are insufficient to appease renewed opposition demands in autocracies located in conflict-ridden neighborhoods. We suggest that this is because of the threat of externalities from nearby conflicts, as well as the likelihood that domestic opposition groups will emulate violent examples set overseas. Thus, conflict contagion affects autocracies with legislatures that reside in neighborhoods with ongoing civil conflicts. We test this claim via multivariate probit analyses in which conflict onset is a function of institutional design at the country level and conflict within the neighborhood. These analyses offer support for our test hypotheses.