Feature: Experts Discuss the Political Economy of Conflict Spaces at Annual Conference

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We are pleased to share the Woodrow Wilson School's recent feature story covering our 2019 ESOC Annual Meeting. 

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The Empirical Studies of Conflict Project (ESOC), a network of scholars at Princeton University, Stanford University, the University of Chicago, and the University of California San Diego (UCSD), held its 10th Annual Meeting on May 9 and 10 at UCSD. The meeting, which drew nearly 100 attendees, continues to bridge the gap among researchers, practitioners, and policymakers across the world to discuss global conflict.

This year’s theme, “Political Economy of Conflict Spaces,” was organized around a series of academic sessions on such topics as state capacity, crime, and violent extremism. The conference also included workshops on the use of big data and engagement with the policy community.

 “This year, our annual meeting brought together researchers from countries around the world, providing a great opportunity to build connections between scholars working to understand conflict and help states restore order,” said Jacob N. Shapiro, professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and director of ESOC.

The ESOC Project compiles and analyzes micro-level conflict data on insurgency, civil war, and politically motivated violence worldwide. The group provides policymakers with research and recommendations on how to respond to security threats.

One of the missions of the annual ESOC conference is to forge relationships and engage those working in research, government, and implementing agencies in the discussion of policy options through a series of policy panels and presentations of academic papers.

“ESOC’s model for making research policy-relevant is to engage governmental and NGO decision-makers at all stages of the research journey. Our conferences help to create the connections across academic fields and into the policy process that are necessary to do that kind of work,” Shapiro said.

 “The ESOC Annual Meeting provides a unique venue in which leading-edge research is presented for feedback to a diverse group that has deep substantive and methodological expertise. It’s an intellectual feast that appeals to all tastes, whether scholarly or more policy-oriented. There’s really nothing like it in the area of conflict studies,” said Ethan B. Kapstein, visiting research collaborator and ESOC associate director.

Some highlights of the meeting occurred in the plenary sessions where papers deemed to be of the broadest interest were presented to all attendees. The opening plenary by Sara Lowes of Bocconi University in Italy focused on the persistent effects of Belgian colonization of the Congo during the 19thcentury on such outcomes as health and education today. In a later plenary, Anna Zhang of Stanford University described former Chairman of the People’s Republic of China Mao Zedong’s policy of establishing “militant farmers” who checked insurgent activity in China’s western regions.

A final plenary session brought together two papers: the first by Michael Callen of UCSD on the political ramifications of Nepal’s Maoist insurgency, and the second by Nicola Limodio, also from Bocconi, on terrorist financing. These papers were suggestive of the substantive and methodological range on offer at the meeting.

The annual meeting was co-sponsored with the Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts at the University of Chicago, the Department of Defense Minerva Research Initiative, and the Vancouver School of Economics at the University of British Columbia, as well as the University of California’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC) and Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA).

More information on ESOC, along with a link to the full agenda with all papers listed, can be found on the ESOC website.