Megan Stewart, Ph.D.

American University

Country: United States (District of Columbia)

Research Interests

Conflict Processes & War

Political Violence


Experimental Research

Research Methods & Research Design

Military Intervention

My Research:

I am an Assistant Professor of Transnational and International Security at American University's School of International Service. My book manuscript, Governing for Revolution, explains variation in rebel governance and incorporates both quantitative and qualitative methods, including the creation and analysis of an original dataset, elite interviews held in Lebanon, and archival research and fieldwork conducted in East Timor, Australia and the United Kingdom.
More broadly, my research agenda lies at the nexus of two distinct areas: civil war processes and state formation. In my research, I seek to integrate rebel governing strategies and their non-violent activities into existing explanations of conflict processes to develop a more complete understanding of the determinants of rebel success or failure, international recognition of secessionist movements, recruitment and attitudinal support for combatants, levels of violence and civilian victimization, rebel-civilian relations, and post-conflict reconstruction. I draw on quantitative, qualitative and experimental methodologies, relying on lab experiments, survey experiments, original data collection, large-N statistical analyses, historical case comparisons, interviews, archival research, and fieldwork. From 2016-2017 I was a Post-Doctoral Research Associate and Lab Manager at the University of Virginia's Politics Experimental Lab. In 2016, my paper in International Organization, "Civil War as State-Building," received honorable mention for the Best Paper Award by APSA Conflict Processes Section. My research has been published at Conflict Management and Peace Science and the Journal of Politics, and has also been featured in the Washington Post, Political Violence at a Glance, Sustainable Security and the Project on Middle East Political Science (POMEPS).​ 


Journal Articles:

(2017) Civil War as State-Making: Strategic Governance in Civil War, International Organization

Why do some rebel groups provide governance inclusively while most others do not? Some insurgencies divert critical financial and personnel resources to provide benefits to anyone, including nonsupporters (Karen National Union, Eritrean People's Liberation Front). Other groups offer no services or limit their service provision to only those people who support, or are likely to support, the insurgency. The existing literature examines how insurgencies incentivize recruitment by offering selective social services, yet no research addresses why insurgencies provide goods inclusively. I argue that inclusive provision of services legitimates insurgents’ claim of sovereignty to domestic and international audiences, and thus is a strategic tool secessionist rebels use to achieve their long-term goal of independence. With new and original data, I use a large-N analysis to test this hypothesis. The results of the analysis support the hypothesis, underscoring the importance insurgent nonviolent behavior and addressing key issues such as sovereignty and governance

(2017) Do Good Borders Make Good Rebels? Territorial Control and Civilian Casualties, Journal of Politics

How does the location of rebel-held territory shape insurgent relations with civilians? We argue that when rebel groups control territory domestically, they are strongly incentivized to cultivate mutually beneficial relations with civilians living in their territory and limit their violence against them, while insurgencies with foreign territorial control are incentivized to deploy violence against civilians to gain compliance and extract resources. We test this hypothesis in three ways: a quantitative analysis of all insurgencies from 1989 to 2003 followed by a qualitative case illustration and the synthetic controls method that leverages the mostly exogenous acquisition of foreign territory by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) after the 1991 establishment of the northern Iraq no-fly zone. Our results strongly support our hypothesis. These findings shed light on potential broader patterns of civilian victimization by insurgents, and the conditions under which insurgents may strive to limit civilian casualties and provide governance.

(2016) Mass Protests and the Resource Curse: The Politics of Demobilization in Rentier Autocracies, Conflict Management and Peace Science

Why are some dictators more successful at demobilizing protest movements than others? Repression sometimes stamps out protest movements (Bahrain in 2011) but can also cause a backlash (Egypt and Tunisia in 2011), leading to regime change. This article argues that the effectiveness of repression in quelling protests varies depending upon the income sources of authoritarian regimes. Oil-rich autocracies are well equipped to contend with domestic and international criticism, and this gives them a greater capacity to quell protests through force. Because oil-poor dictators lack such ability to deal with criticism, repression is more likely to trigger a backlash of increased protests. The argument is supported by analysis of newly available data on mass protests from the Nonviolent and Violent Campaigns and Outcomes (NAVCO 2.0) dataset, which covers all countries (1945–2006). This article implies that publics respond strategically to repression, and tend to demobilize when the government is capable of continually employing repression with impunity.