Indiscriminate violence against civilians : an inquiry into the nature and the effects of group-selective violence
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Indiscriminate violence against civilians is a recurrent problem in armed conflicts of all sorts. However, from a social science perspective this type of violence poses a puzzle. The literature on government and non-government violence mostly assumes that indiscriminate violence has counter-productive effect and is ultimately self-defeating. Yet, this begs the question as to why an actor should use indiscriminate violence at all? This dissertation tries to solve at least part of the puzzle. First, it critically reviews the literature and points to some misunderstandings that have made progress in comprehending indiscriminate violence more difficult. Second, the dissertation provides a theory on the effects of indiscriminate violence that targets groups, i.e. group-selective violence. While most of the literature assumes that violence against groups seeks to coerce the groups that are attacked, this dissertation widens the view and includes non-targeted groups in the calculation as well. It thereby demonstrates that group-selective violence can be able to produce coercive effects among those groups that are not targeted while generating only limited counter-productive effects. Empirically, this dissertation provides two types of supporting evidence. First, it will provide several case studies as a plausibility probe. These cases are designed to highlight that group-selective violence is used in the way proposed by the theory and has the hypothesized effects. Second, the dissertation will test the hypotheses of the theory of group-selective violence with data on violence against civilians in ethnic wars. Here quantitative methods are used to investigate the patterns and the consequences of violence. Both empirical investigations provide support for the notion that group-selective violence can be beneficial for the perpetrator and that it is used to achieve those benefits. In sum, this dissertation puts forth the theoretical background and empirical support for the effectiveness of group-selective violence.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2020-04-05
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Electronic copy restricted until 5th April 2020
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