"Concealing Conflict Markets: How Rebels and Firms use State Institutions to Legitimize Wartime Trade" International Organization, 2021 here

Abstract: Rebel groups are players on the international stage, but little is known about their financial strategies on this scale. Conventional wisdom expects rebels to operate through informal networks that evade state authority. Yet new data reveal that rebels can better connect to global economies by repurposing state institutions. Drawing on unprecedented data—the internal records of armed groups and their trading partners—I demonstrate how rebels use state agencies in conflict zones to manufacture a legal cover for trade. Whereas states are the recognized actors in the international system, rebels are illegitimate when it comes to international transactions. By using state agencies to provide false certification, rebels can place the stamp of state on their trade deals. This is a fundamentally different model of how conflict markets skirt sanctions and connect to global buyers not by avoiding the state, but by infiltrating its institutions. I develop a framework of how this strategy works. The framework demonstrates how the international context of sovereignty norms and sanctions regimes create incentives for rebels, firms, and bureaucrats along steps the supply chain to coordinate around this legal veneer. Data from a prototypical resource conflict, the Democratic Republic of Congo, enable rare insights and unusually systematic analysis of the actual functions of conflict economies. The framework and evidence contribute theoretical and policy understandings for rebel governance, state building and fragmentation, and illicit global markets.

"Bureaucrats at War: The Resilient State in the Congo," African Affairs, 2020. here

Abstract: Rebels often use a state-like image to legitimize their rule, but little is known about their on-the-ground relations with the administrators of state power—official bureaucrats. This article fills this gap by examining bureaucratic practices in conflict zones. Drawing on fieldwork in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it argues that bureaucrats actively sustain state institutions and recruit rebel support during war. The article develops a theoretical framework to trace how bureaucrats use a strategic resource—their recognized authority to confer state legitimization and legality—to negotiate with rebels. This entails struggles on two fronts. On a first, bureaucrats use official certificates, codes, and paperwork to produce state legitimacy in conflict zones and exchange it with rebels to purchase protection. On a second, bureaucrats aim to preserve their brokerage role over this legitimacy resource. Quotidian practices of noncompliance such as evasions, parallel taxes, and sabotaged information, can prevent rebels from appropriating administrations outright. Original records from four Congolese rebel groups illustrate how bureaucrats maneuver between compliance and resistance. Real-time records demonstrate the continuity of bureaucratic practice during war, and offer glimpses into everyday governance practices. It contributes to literature on rebel governance, public authority, and failed states.

“Set Diagrams and Qualitative Research.” 2015. Comparative Political Studies 48(1): 65-100. here

Abstract: Political scientists have developed important new ideas for using spatial diagrams to enhance quantitative research. Yet the potential uses of diagrams for qualitative research have not been explored systematically. We begin to correct this omission by showing how set diagrams can facilitate the application of qualitative methods and improve the presentation of qualitative findings. Set diagrams can be used in conjunction with a wide range of qualitative methodologies, including process tracing, concept formation, counterfactual analysis, sequence elaboration, and qualitative comparative analysis. We illustrate the utility of set diagrams by drawing on substantive examples of qualitative research in the fields of international relations and comparative politics.


Violent Institutions: Rebellion, Bureaucracy and Wartime State Capture

My book manuscript examines 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.
During fieldwork, I negotiated 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. For more on the data, see here.


"Peace Building as State Building? Lessons from the Democratic Republic of the Congo" in The State of Peacebuilding in Africa: Lessons Learned for Policymakers and Practitioners, edited volume organized by the Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2020, here (chapter link) and here (edited volume link)

"The Role of Language in Research" and "Getting around in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo," Narrative boxes in Chris Barrett, Jeffrey Cason, Erin Lentz, Overseas Research: A Practical Guide, 3rd ed. Routeledge, 2020.

"In Search of Order: State Systems of Property Rights Enforcement and their Failings" in Sandra Joireman, Where there is No Government: Enforcing Property Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa, Oxford University Press, 2011. here and here

Abstract: Accepted wisdom regarding the geography of power in most African countries holds that power radiates outward from the center, with the strength of the state most pronounced in the capital and often barely discernable in the hinterland. With the intense urbanization in many African countries over the past decade we are increasingly seeing areas and populations that are geographically proximate to the center of power, yet as beyond state control as the geographic hinterland. Urban informal settlements are “pockets of statelessness” within capital cities that often have neither formal political representation nor basic public goods. This chapter explores the persistence of one of these “pockets of statelessness,” the Kibera slum community in urban Nairobi, and identifies why attempts to title and enforce property rights there have been bypassed. Four competing enforcement regimes (state courts, NGOs, bureaucratic entrepreneurs, and gangs) are identified within Kibera, and their effectiveness with regard to social welfare is evaluated.


"Militarizing the Peace: United Nations Intervention against Congo's 'Terrorist' Rebels" Lawfare Institute and the Brookings Institute, Lawfare blog, June 2019, here

"Clichés Can Kill in Congo" Foreign Policy, April 2019, here

"Politics and Business Intersect in a String of North Kivu Killings" Congo Research Group, Center on International Cooperation, New York University, January 2015, here


Politics of Violence surrounding the Ebola Outbreak in northeast DRC:

  • Local voices update #3 (February-April 2019) : "Politics, factions, and violence: listening to local voices on Ebola" here | French: "Politique, dissensions et violence: à l'écoute des portes-paroles locaux s'exprimant au sujet d'Ébola- Bulletin d'informations médias locax #3 (février-avril 2019)" here

  • Local voices update #2 (November-December 2018): "Local messages and perspectives on Ebola in the Grand Nord, DRC", here

  • Local voices update #1 (September 2018): "Reluctance, refusal, resistance and the politicisation of the Ebola response", here

Mass Killings, Rebel Organization, and State-led Violence

“The Allied Democratic Forces: Armed Group Profile and Demobilization Strategy” Report to the United Nations Secretary-General, Office of the Special Envoy to the African Great Lakes Region, March 2019, here

“Mass Killings in North Kivu’s Beni Territory: Duplicity and Political Violence” Investigative Report, Congo Research Group, Center on International Cooperation, September 2017, here


“Inside the Gates: Rebel State Building, Bureaucratic Takeover, and Civil War” (Supported by Qualitative Data Repository, Transparent Inquiry Initiative)

“Creating ‘Terror’: Mechanisms and Methods of Knowledge Production about Civil War Violence”

“Militarizing the Peace: United Nations Missions and Violence Containment with Robust Force”

"Rebel Records: The Pen, Not Just the Sword, of Violent Organization "

"Knowing What we Don't: The Problem of (Mis)Attributing Civil War Violence"

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