I research micro-dynamics of violence, analyze the behavior of combatants and perpetrators, and evaluate the specific mechanisms that generate conflict and other forms of political violence at the highly localized level. My interests are broadly in the areas of international security, conflict and political violence, with a specific focus on using political, economic, and environmental factors to explain and predict violence inside and outside of conflict settings. As a researcher I devoted considerable energy into developing “localized conflict” approaches to understand manifestations of violence that have traditionally been thought of mostly as initiated by states or leaders.
International relations: political violence; civil war; food security; mass killing; climate and conflict; the geographic variation of violence
Methodology: computational social science; limited dependent variable models; mixed distribution models; Bayesian methods; mixed methods; event data
Revise and Resubmit
Koren, Ore. “Food Security and Violent Conflict in Africa.”
Mukherjee, Bumba and Ore Koren. Paramilitaries, Militias, and Political Demobilization after Civil War. Under contract at Oxford University Press.
When are paramilitaries and militias more likely to demobilize, disarm and re-integrate into the political spheres? If they demobilize, do these groups join existing political parties or form their own in order to participate in the electoral process? Conversely, under what conditions do paramilitaries or militias opt to not disarm and integrate into the political process, choosing instead to continue their violent and criminal activities and undermine the state? Finally, when will these activities lead to the renewal of civil war? Answering these questions is more than just an academic exercise; the answers can provide new, important explanations for when peace-building works, and when civil war recurs. These, in turn, can inform our current understanding of post-war politics that emphasize transitional justice, peacekeeping activities, and democratic and market integration.
Paramilitaries, Militias, and Political Demobilization after Civil War provides a thorough, meticulous analysis of the role that paramilitaries and militias play after the war ends. Whereas ongoing research into these groups focuses primarily on their behavior during conflict, this book explains the strategic choices made by these groups – to disarm and join the political process, continue their criminal activities, or actively attack the state – and shows that these choices have a crucial impact on the success of peace building processes in post-civil war situations.
Mukherjee, Bumba and Ore Koren. The Politics of Mass Killing in Autocratic Regimes. Under contract at Palgrave Macmillan.
Why do nondemocratic regimes perpetrate mass killing in some times but not others? What explains the variation in mass killing within autocracies? Despite a large and growing literature on violent repression and civilian victimization in nondemocratic countries, researchers have noted that more work is needed in order to understand and carefully explain one of the most basic decisions autocrats make: whether to kill their own subjects, or not. We show that food shortages play an important role in causing popular resentment, and can motivate the civilians to collectively mobilize against the regime. We also show that sustained mobilization against the regime is more likely in developed urban areas, where the civilians can more easily overcome collective action problems.
By showing that highly developed urban areas can generate mass killing perpetrated preemptively as a strategy to credibly deter sustained political mobilization by civilians, our book offers a new explanation about the onset and variation in mass killing within nondemocratic countries. It also explains an important linkage between economic development and mass killing. This has implications for our understanding of not only how economic development can cause mass killing, but also how, by impacting human capital, mass killing can cause long-term negative impact on development.
Koren, Ore. “Conflict Prevention in Isolated World Ship Societies.” Proceedings of the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop.
Scholars have long argued that so-called “closed societies” frequently experience severe violence perpetrated for political motivations. Living in socioeconomic and political vacuum aboard large world ships – without inter-societal migration, external penetration of ideas, conflict management and peacebuilding by external parties, or even regular communications with the outside world – interstellar societies will be especially vulnerable to internal conflict. In such contexts, enmities can easily fester, nonviolent quarrels can escalate into violent conflict and political disagreement can deteriorate into mass killing of opposition members. Building on recent research, this paper identifies specific factors that could engender conflict on interstellar world ships to offer strategies of mitigation and prevention. The paper begins by discussing four types of conflict on Earth that are especially likely in the context of world ships and listing their relevant socioeconomic and political causes. These pathways are then articulated to operationalize empirical models of violence. The strongest predictors are identified empirically by statistically analyzing large datasets of different conflict types on Earth over the last half century. To do so, computer simulations are first applied to out-of-sample data, i.e., data not used to compile the original models, to cross-validate the relevant strength of the predictors identified in the previous stage. This process is repeated twice, first on a sample of all countries globally for the years 1961–2011 and then again on a sample consisting solely of countries with very high population densities – societies that resemble those most likely to exist on world ships. Finally, literature on conflict mitigation is applied to pinpoint strategies to address causes of conflict identified as having an especially strong impact as societal density increases, including political restrictions, economic inequalities, ethnic divisions and limitations on access to food. By applying lessons from earth societies to interstellar travel, this paper will inform the creation of a sustainable, peaceful governance system for future on-board colonies.
Koren, Ore. “Hunger Games: Food Security and Strategic Preemptive Conflict.”
A growing number of studies draw linkages between violent conflict and food scarcities. Yet, evidence suggests that at the subnational level conflict is likely to revolve around food resources abundance. In focusing on conflict waged by groups to prevent their rivals from securing food resources, this paper offers a theory to understand the relationship between food security and violent conflict. I develop a formal model that incorporates three actors: civilian producers who grow crops, raiders, and defense forces. Equilibrium and comparative static results show that violent conflict is more likely in regions with an abundance of food resources. The model is validated at the subnational level using new high specificity spatial data on staple crop production for the years 1998-2008, and used to forecast conflict for 2009-2010. In line with theoretical expectations, food resources have a positive and statistically significant effect on the strategic behaviors of different actors.
Koren, Ore. “Reparations for State Crimes as a Diffusive Norm.”
This study applies extant theories on the diffusion of human rights to reparations for mass killing, and tests these theories using modeling techniques that account for the diffusive nature of reparations. I argue that reparations for state crimes are a rare, diffusive event, and that in order to understand their spread one must account for the conditional relationship between where and when diffusive processes are more likely. Drawing on extant theories of international policy diffusion and international law, I derive testable hypotheses regarding the diffusion of reparations for state crimes. These hypotheses are then tested on newly available data on reparations for the years 1971-2011 using Bayesian Weibull models that account for the underlying differences affecting the baseline likelihood and baseline hazard, respectively, of reparations, based on theoretical expectations. Primarily, I find that regimes with less political rights are significantly less likely to provide reparations. In addition, evidence from these theory specific hierarchical models suggests that more international reparations precedents are associated with increased time until reparations, whereas GATT/WTO membership and perpetrating regimes are associated with decreased time until reparations. These models also suggest that reparations become more likely over time, and can be used to identify countries that are inherently more likely to adopt them.