Civil War Recurrence and Postwar Violence: Toward An Integrated Research Agenda


Violence after civil war is a challenge to sustainable peace. Many armed conflicts today are recurrences of previous wars and much of the literature on violence after war explains why armed groups return to the battlefield. But even if peace prevails, many other types of violence take place in postwar environments. This postwar violence is likewise subject to a growing multidisciplinary literature. Using citation network analysis, we show that research on war recurrence and postwar violence has developed in relative isolation from each other—although these phenomena are interrelated. This compartmentalization leads us to overlook important similarities and differences in the drivers of different forms of violence after war. We demonstrate this by reviewing the literature in both of these closely related fields. While war recurrence and postwar violence share a set of common risk factors, some factors can have opposite effects on the two outcomes. Because these insights only emerge when systematically comparing the two strands of literature, we propose a novel framework for the study of violence after wars that aims at overcoming the compartmentalization of research within these two fields. The framework serves both as a conceptual lens and an analytical tool to categorize and compare different forms of violence after war. We then outline how the framework aids scholars in pursuing an integrated research agenda, with concrete suggestions for research questions that should be studied to expand our understanding of violence after wars.

European Journal of International Relations 27(3)
Sebastian van Baalen
Sebastian van Baalen
Assistant Professor of Peace & Conflict Research

My research interests include the dynamics of violence and civil war.