Papers & Publications


Working Papers

Idler, Annette & Hannah Smidt (2017). "Bringing perceptions and experiences in: A novel approach to measuring changes in violent conflict." Working paper, July 2017, available here.


Abstract: This paper argues that quantitative conflict research benefits from accounting for individuals’ perceptions and experiences of violent conflict. Recently, conflict researchers move away from the country (or country-year) as ‘natural’ unit of analysis and start disaggregating conflicts into events, by actors or spatially. Yet, perceptions and experiences have largely been overlooked for understanding on-the-ground realities of changes in conflict. We contend that accounting for perceptions and experiences by integrating oral evidence, such as testimonies, and local nonverbal forms of expression, such as visual artwork, helps us to grasp changes in conflict in a more nuanced way. It is important to more directly account for individuals’ perceptions and experiences, because they are a constituent elements of conflict incidents and the basis for our causal claims regarding individuals’ behaviours in conflict (for example, low economic opportunity costs motivate people to fight). We propose a novel methodological framework for how empirical material on experiences and perceptions can be systematically integrated into conflict research. This framework constructively critiques the wide-spread use of “labels” of conflict forms (e.g. civil war vs. drug war), spatial units of analysis (e.g. countries vs. perceived conflict-affected areas) and time (e.g. memories of the past vs. current events). Our novel perception- and experience-based approach leads to a more holistic understanding of the various meanings of violent conflict with important implications for policy-making.


Idler, Annette (2017). "The Changing Character of Conflict Platform: Understanding, Tracing and Forecasting Change across Time, Space and Cultures" Working Paper, 26 May 2017, presented at University of Oxford, available here.

Abstract: This paper fleshes out the ideas that lie at the core of the project “The Changing Character of Conflict Platform: Understanding, Tracing and Forecasting Change across Time, Space and Cultures”, funded by the UK Research Council’s Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security Research. 1 These ideas are informed by the project’s overarching aim: to reduce the threats to human security that arise from armed conflict. In particular, the paper discusses the objectives set to work towards this aim and the questions that need to be tackled in order to achieve them. The first objective is to transform knowledge on conflict into a more comprehensive understanding of its changing character by accounting for change across time, space and cultures. The second objective is to use this distinctive knowledge to grasp the dynamism and non-linear nature of change in armed conflict. Achieving these objectives cannot occur from one single mind-set or perspective. It requires a collective effort that brings together varying disciplinary, methodological and epistemological approaches, all united in the aspiration of transformative, or emancipatory, scholarship - of contributing towards a more secure world. The purpose of this paper is therefore not to provide an exhaustive account of the debates and works that shape a comprehensive understanding of change in conflict. Nor is it to come up with an overriding argument of what a resulting “platform” of knowledge ought to comprise. Rather, this paper constitutes a starting point to establish a common language for a conceptual framework through which we can construct such a comprehensive understanding. It should stir reflections and generate further questions to stimulate debate.

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