Rachel Sweet


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My doctoral project examined varied patterns of rebel-state engagement during armed conflict and the processes of institutional change that they entail.  Conventional wisdom portrays conflict zones as lacking institutions or pitting armed groups and states as competitors. Yet, my dissertation shows that rebels and state agents often negotiate to realize interests on both sides. Drawing on new data the Democratic Republic of Congo, my dissertation examines how state agents maintain institutions that collect revenue and monitor resource flows in rebel-held territories. Through subnational case comparison, it identifies four sets of accommodations—collusion, cooptation, entrenchment, and displacement—that differ according to rebels’ use of the state apparatus and where authority resides.  I trace these interactions in the political economy of war as rebels and states co-administer taxation and cross-border trade. 

I gather original data from unprecedented access to the internal records of four armed groups', including rebels’ financial transactions, correspondences with business partners and government agencies, as well as budgets, payrolls, and tax ledgers. These unusually comprehensive records provide data to trace the social relationships that governed resources during civil war and offer unprecedented insights into the inner workings of rebel organization. 


How do civilians who lack tenure enforce their property rights in urban informal settlements?  My interest in non-state coercive governance began while observing  informal procedures for enforcing property rights in Kibera, an urban informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. As an undergraduate, I conducted six months' independent fieldwork focused on how local vigilantes administer informal housing rights in Kibera.  My research formed part of a broader academic research team funded by an NSF grant to compare property disputes and dispute resolution mechanisms across urban and rural field sites in Kenya, Ghana, and Uganda.  This work resulted in a chapter in  Where there is No Government with Oxford University Press.