SWP 17

Explaining Support for Combatants during Wartime: A Survey Experiment in Afghanistan
Jason Lyall, Kosuke Imai and Graeme Blair


How are civilians’ attitudes toward combatants affected by exposure to violence during wartime? Does civilian victimization affect these attitudes differently depending on the perpetrator’s identity? We investigate the determinants of wartime civilian attitudes towards combatants using a survey experiment across 204 villages in five Pashtun-dominated provinces of Afghanistan – the very heart of the Taliban insurgency. We use endorsement experiments to indirectly elicit truthful answers to sensitive questions about attitudes toward combatants. We find civilian attitudes toward the combatants to be asymmetric. Harm inflicted by ISAF is met with reduced ISAF support and increased Taliban support, but Taliban-inflicted harm does not translate into greater ISAF support. We combine a multistage sampling design with multilevel statistical modeling to estimate support levels for ISAF and the Taliban at the individual, village, and district levels, permitting a more fine-grained analysis of wartime attitudes than previously possible.

SWP 16 

Truth Commission Impact: An Assessment of How Commissions Influence Politics and Society
Onur Bakiner


NOTE: The final version of this paper is forthcoming in the International Journal of Transitional Justice, 8 (1). Click here to access.

This paper defines truth commission impact as the effect of truth commissions on government policy, judicial processes and social norms. It isolates impact from the causal effects of similar post-conflict institution-building and other transitional justice and conflict resolution measures. It examines ten causal mechanisms through which truth commissions are expected to influence politics and society. Immediate political impact through the implementation of recommendations and delayed political impact through civil society mobilization are the two explanations that draw strong empirical support. Some commissions contribute to human rights accountability (judicial impact), and some promote impunity through amnesty, although the magnitude of impact is small in each case. They also generate normative changes through the delegitimation of perpetrators, the reaction to delegitimation on the part of perpetrators and their allies, and commissions’ overall impact on social norms. Only one commission (in El Salvador) has successfully lobbied for vetting. Despite widely held claims that commissions present a trade-off between reconciliation and justice, there is no evidence that commissions forge reconciliation through consensus, or that they perpetuate impunity.

SWP 15

Notes on Teaching International Studies with Novels: Hard Times, Half of a Yellow Sun and The Quiet American
John Harriss


This essay records efforts over several years of undergraduate teaching to show how the work of creative writers complements the analyses of social scientists and historians to bring home the relevance and human dimension of central questions in international relations and development studies. I assign three novels by very different authors – Charles Dickens, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Graham Green – alongside ‘core’ scholarly texts about the implications of utilitarianism, the politics of ethnicity and the impact of great power intervention during the Cold War. Students’ responses to this self-conscious comparison of two ways of understanding are encouraging. They see vividly how social processes affect people’s lives; explore the mindset and motivations (moral or not) of people living under different circumstances from today; and gain an appreciation of the difficulty of analysing and interpreting one’s own social and political reality.

SWP 14

Reflections on Agrarian Change in India since Independence: Does ‘Landlordism’ Still Matter?
John Harriss


Since the ‘green revolution’ of the 1970s and 1980s agrarian capitalism in India has continued to develop. What was called ‘semi-feudalism’ has indeed ‘met the market’ (Rogers and Rogers 2001). Although both landlessness and inequality in land ownership have increased, the differentiation and polarization of peasant classes that was anticipated by some has almost frozen. Today’s ‘classes of labour’ reproduce themselves through a range of mostly precarious activities which may include some own cultivation. Land is no longer so much the basis of status and power – as both caste hierarchies and farmers’ movements have weakened. Poor, lower caste people have loosened the ties of dependence, but without securing much political leverage for themselves. New patterns of inequality and of exclusion are emerging, and they sometimes involve the reproduction of power by the old locally dominant castes of the principal landholders/landlords. The many people who are effectively excluded do not appear to constitute anything approaching a ‘classe dangereuse’ in the eyes of the dominant castes/class.

SWP 13 

Controversy, Facts and Assumptions: Lessons from Estimating Long Term Growth in Nigeria, 1900–2007
Morten Jerven


This article contributes to the debates surrounding ‘New African Economic History’ by exploring the feasibility of constructing a time series of economic growth in Nigeria spanning the 20th century. Currently most datasets for African economies only go back to 1960. The sources for their creation exist, but these valuable colonial data remain underutilized. This is a first exploratory paper in a project aiming to create measures of economic growth through the 20th century for a sample of African economies. The paper offers a systematic discussion of the different available datasets on population, agricultural production and income for the country. It finds that the existing data, often presented as facts, are more accurately described as projections based on assumptions. If these assumptions are already made in the production of the data, this precludes empirical testing of important questions. The main lesson is that any African economic history investigation must both begin and end with a critical analysis of the quantitative data, and must further be supported by careful qualitative evaluation.

SWP 12

Islamic Law, Women’s Rights, and Popular Legal Consciousness in Malaysia
Tamir Moustafa


NOTE: The final version of this paper was published in Law & Social Inquiry, 38(1)(2013), 168-188. Click here to access.

Drawing on original survey research, this study examines how lay Muslims in Malaysia understand foundational concepts in Islamic law. The survey finds a substantial disjuncture between popular legal consciousness and core epistemological commitments in Islamic legal theory. In its classic form, Islamic legal theory was marked by its commitment to pluralism and the centrality of human agency in Islamic jurisprudence. Yet in contemporary Malaysia, lay Muslims tend to understand Islamic law as being singular, fixed, and purely divine in nature, with a single ‘correct’ answer to any given question. The practical implications of these findings are demonstrated through examples of efforts by women’s-rights activists to reform family law provisions in Malaysia. The examples illustrate how popular misunderstandings of Islamic legal theory hinder the efforts of those working to reform family law codes while strengthening the hand of conservative actors wishing to maintain the status quo.

SWP 11

The 2010 NPT Review Conference: An Assessment of Outcome and Outlook
Paul Meyer


The May 2010 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was the first such conference in a decade to conclude with a substantive Final Document, containing a 64 point Action Plan. How significant was the agreement reached by consensus at the Conference, and what does it portend for the health of the global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime? This paper assesses the outcome across the three ‘pillars’ of the NPT—nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy—as well as the major regional and institutional issues addressed at the conference. It concludes that the result of the 2010 Review Conference is best described as a status quo outcome and little was achieved in resolving the underlying tensions that threaten the NPT's authority.

SWP 10

The Social Dynamics of Civil War: Insights from Constructivist Theory
Jeffrey T. Checkel


With roots in sociology, anthropology and political theory, constructivism has made many inroads in contemporary political science. It has provided new insights on agency (as socially embedded), institutions (as community builders), an array of group processes (socialization, social influence, persuasion, deliberation) and power relations (social and discursive). More important, it has applied such insights empirically, thus also addressing all-important issues of data and method. After briefly reviewing this work, I suggest several ways in which it can help us better understand the social dynamics of civil war. Yet, this should not be a one way street. Constructivists also have much to learn – in theorizing violence, ‘nasty’ socialization, and, more generally, the dark side of politics.