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Mershon Center Speaker Series
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Paul Staniland
Armed Politics and the State in South Asia
Monday, February 13, 2017, 03:30pm - 05:00pm
The Mershon Center for International Security Studies
1501 Neil Avenue, Room 120
Columbus, Ohio 43201

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Paul Staniland

Paul Staniland is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago, where he co-directs the Program on International Security Policy. His research interests are in civil war, international security, and ethnic politics, primarily in South Asia. His current book project and related articles examine organizational cohesion and fragmentation in insurgent groups. Other work studies civil-military relations, pro-state paramilitarism in civil wars, Indian and Pakistani foreign and internal security policy, and the politics of insurgency and terrorism.

Staniland's work has been published in Civil Wars, Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Conflict Resolution, International Security, Security Studies, and Washington Quarterly, among others. He teaches courses on civil war and military politics, with a focus on the developing world.


Regimes deal with armed groups in remarkably diverse ways: in some contexts they wage total wars of annihilation, in others they cut live-and-let-live deals, and in yet others they closely ally with non-state actors. Varying topographies of armed order emerge and evolve across time and space. This project introduces an “armed politics” framework that can integrate the study of state building, civil war, and electoral violence into a unified analytical approach.

It conceptualizes and measures different armed orders – limited cooperation, alliance, containment, and total war – and the pathways through which these orders end, in collapse or incorporation.

The project then offers a new theory of how states evaluate armed groups, arguing that ideological perception and instrumental incentives combine to assign groups to six different political roles. These roles, ranging from mortal enemies to business partners to undesirable, determine the strategies that governments pursue and the orders they seek to construct. Political ideas about state and nation are central to political conflict. Comparative evidence from South and Southeast Asia illustrates how regimes perceive armed groups and the armed orders that emerge.


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