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Rebel Movements and Insurgencies

Session VIII-14, 2022 Annual Meeting

On Saturday, December 3 at 11:00 am

Panel Description
  • What explains diachronic variation in the strategies that stateless nationalist movements pursue in their interactions with dominant states? Why is such variation often absent, or delayed and I complete, when a change in national strategy would be advantageous or expected? This paper uses the Palestinian national movement as a lens through which to examine different types of strategies that self-determination movements pursue and the processes through which these strategies change. As the Oslo process and two-state solution have been dislodged as the presumed pathway and eventual outcome of the conflict with Israel, the current juncture in Palestinian politics presents an opportunity for studying the evolution of national strategy. The options available to Palestinians are often framed dichotomously as continued pursuit of an independent state or transition to a civil rights struggle within Greater Israel, or alternatively as violence or non-violence. Yet this framing lacks sufficient nuance to represent the range of debate within the national movement or the choices that actors on the ground actually face as they navigate the political options available to them. Despite the abundance of calls for revitalizing the Palestinian national project with new strategies, there has been little social scientific analysis of strategy formation that could inform evaluation of these different options or assessment of the emergent trends that make some more or less likely to be realized. This paper traces the discursive space of strategic debate within the national movement, typologizes the strategies under consideration at the current juncture, and develops a theory of strategy formation that highlights political agency at the intersection of top-down and bottom-up political processes.
  • As a result of the Second Karabakh War (September-November, 2020) new borders have arisen between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan. For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Baku gained effective control over borders to the east of the southern Armenian province of Siunik (known as Zangezour in Azerbaijani). New borders have also come into being farther north, in the Vardenis region of the Armenian province of Gegharkounik (known as Basarkechar in Azerbaijani). Sudden and dramatic withdrawals of Armenian troops and civilians during winter 2020-2021 were coupled with the appearance of armed Azerbaijani forces garrisoned at heights above the aforementioned areas in the spring and summer of 2021. Yerevan claimed the violation of sovereign Armenian territory in some of these military movements. Meanwhile, the discourse of the Azerbaijani leadership in the same period made regular claims to those regions, invoking a “Zangezour Corridor” for Azerbaijan proper to access the exclave of Nakhichevan (Nakhchivan) cut off by Armenia. These dynamics mark the appearance of a new front in what remains an ongoing conflict involving Armenia and Azerbaijan and the Armenian population of Karabakh, among other actors. This paper investigates the impact of transformed territorial control on the people of Siunik. It is based on fieldwork carried out in that province during September-October, 2021, building upon scores of interviews conducted with local government officials, educational personnel, media workers, civil society representatives, clergy, and ordinary citizens in the cities of Kapan and Goris and the rural communities surrounding them, including those on new borders with Azerbaijan. How does the prevailing nationalist discourse of the geopolitical culture of Armenia adapt to this dramatic and traumatic turn of events? How have perceptions of the location and locatedness of Armenia and Siunik shifted since the end of the Second Karabakh War? Drawing on the concepts of geopolitical culture and the geo-body in critical geopolitics and nationalism studies literatures, this paper examines the place of Siunik in the new geography of Armenia through discursive tropes in the self-imagination of the people of the province, alongside overlaps and discrepancies with more widespread nationalist tropes and geographical imaginations in the country.
  • How does the past shape modern conflicts? Analogies between historical and modern events have been used to guide leaders in contemporary crises. Existing works have argued that leaders confronted with complex decisions concerning war and peace often use these comparisons, but historical analogies also hold the potential to shape and inspire strategies of resistance and domestic insurgencies as well. In this paper, we examine how historical analogies derived from mandate-era resistance against foreign domination in Iraq and Syria were used to mobilize and legitimize later insurgencies. The paper adopts a multi-method approach, using discourse analysis to analyze the use of these historical analogies during the 2011 Syrian uprising and the insurgency which followed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Archival data and existing datasets on modern insurgencies (including “the events” of the 1970s and 1980s in Syria and regional uprisings which took place in Iraq in the 1990s) are also used to quantitatively evaluate the impact of previous types of armed resistance in a given geographic region on future armed mobilization in that region. We argue that historical analogies vary in their salience and effectiveness, with analogies based on historical, national uprisings proving more successful than comparisons to local or sectarian revolts. This paper thus shows how historical analogies can play a role in shaping intrastate conflict by mobilizing and legitimating insurgent armed groups, and that they thereby play a role in intrastate conflicts as well as interstate relations. We also contribute to discussions on what shapes the salience of particular analogies, challenging existing literature that argues more recent analogies have a greater role to play than more historical comparisons and instead centering the discourse on the inclusiveness of the analogy.
  • Violent conflicts between ethno-religious organizations and states have shaped the development of many countries. We investigate the dynamic violent relationships between the organizations of discriminated groups and the governments in Middle-Eastern and North African countries. Our estimated dynamic models, including with heterogeneous responses, reveal dampened cycles of violence between states and politico-ethnic organizations due to violent mutual responses. Such cycles are absent with terrorism, which is more likely after an insurgency. Finally, we provide a game-theoretical interpretative framework, which allows us to identify the Stag Hunt game as an appropriate summary of the strategic links of states and minority organizations.