Connection and Resistance: Civilian experiences of violence in conflict zones and their impact on civilians’ political preferences for violent and nonviolent resistance
GADE, EMILY K.
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Under what conditions is state use of force successful at containing militancy, and when might it simultaneously, or instead, radicalize members of the civilian population? I present a new theory evaluating social isolation and social connection as mechanisms affecting civilians’ political preferences in response to state-sponsored violence. State use of force policies such as checkpoints, curfews, and limits on communication devices are designed to control militancy and increase safety. However, I argue these policies can increase isolation, removing social support networks that enable civilians to cope with the stress, anger, frustration, fear and grief they experience living in a conflict zone. I argue such freedom of movement-restricting policies can fracture communities and lead to increased isolation, aggression and a greater likelihood of civilian preferences for militancy. Using life-story style qualitative interviews conducted in the West Bank and Israel, I find strong evidence that the disintegration of social structure and social relationships predisposes civilians toward militancy as the appropriate means to address their political grievances. I also find strong evidence that social connection (defined in part by freedom of movement) is critical to civilians’ resilience in conflict zones and provides the foundation for nonviolent political participation, including civil resistance. The implications of these findings point to possible changes in policies adopted by (i) governments and counterinsurgents seeking to avoid civilian militancy and (ii) civil resistance activists and movement entrepreneurs committed to nonviolence. To extend these findings, I create a typology of different types of state violence and a means of quantifying them which, potentially, could be applied to conflicts cross-nationally. I conclude with a plausibility probe evaluating whether social connection is equally important in affecting civilian political preferences in response to non-state actor violence, specifically terrorism, and the implications of this research agenda.
- Political science