Current Students


These are the students for whom I serve as the principal academic advisor and as dissertation chair for those who have completed candidacy requirements. We share broad interests in the comparative politics of violence and conflict, the politics of constructing authority (“state-building,” conflict and post-conflict, including on the part of rebels) and international responses to conflict.  Over the years, we have conducted joint field research in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Uganda, Nigeria, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan.  These collaborations involve often lead to coordinated applications for external funding and depending on coincidence of interests, to joint publications.




Marco Bocchese


Marco Bocchese proposes that context shapes whether targets of international prosecutorial bodies will see prosecution as a threat. This perception may be based upon prior ICC or ad hoc tribunal action, but the immediacy of other threats and the degree of menace from powerful external state actors loom larger. This explains why in some instances threats of prosecution just cause leaders to conclude that there is nothing to lose in defiance while others are deterred. This boils down to leadership perceptions about survivability and the likelihood of real punishment for proscribed behavior. He proposes that workable deterrence requires a credible threat, but that the target of the threats is harder to impress when really pressed against the wall. Amnesty plays a positive role in this kind of leader back into a context in which compliance is more thinkable as a viable alternative.



Buddhika Jayamaha “Rebels Inside and Out: Ruling Coalitions, Coercion and Rebel Choices”


Buddhika Jayamaha brings his interest in the micro-politics of conflict to our group. He investigates the mainsprings of organizational strategies and the behaviors of rebel groups and militias in urban environments. His research investigates causes for variation in rebel, militia and state organization and tactics in urban warfare.  His work begins with important descriptions of how groups adapt to urban conditions in warfare. This is an important question as much of the world’s population urbanizes. He also recognizes that the great increase in state surveillance capacities effectively turns all of the battle-space into an urban environment. The rural “liberated zone” option of classic 20th century guerrillas is receding as an option. For this and other reasons, B.J.’s work is especially important. He earned his master’s degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee. Since joining our program he and I have conducted collaborative field research in Mogadishu and elsewhere overseas.



Rana Khoury


            Rana Khoury focuses on the politics of refugee mobilization in the context of wider conflict.  She is investigating patterns of mobilization

Among refugees of the Syrian conflict, and has identified different patterns in their organization and relationships to home communities in the course of the current conflict. Her argument identifies drivers of major shifts in refugee mobilization in recent years in the weakening of state authorities in the states of origin and in host states. These changes have undermined international regimes concerning refugee populations. Like other actors associated with contemporary conflicts, refugees also have to adapt to new conditions.  Rana already is an accomplished researcher and is the author of As Ohio Goes: Life in the Post-Recession Nation (Kent State University Press, 2016). In this book, Rana tells the stories of average Americans living in a moment of record income inequality and declining standards of living.  Rana received an SSRC Predissertation Fellowship in 2015, and in 2016 she received an American Center for Oriental Research pre-doctoral fellowship and a ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius field research grant to support her dissertation research in Jordan and Turkey.



Sasha Klyachkina


Sasha Klyachkina is interested in how the organization of violence in the late 1980s and early 1990s in the Caucasus region created new patterns of authority and shaped the subsequent institutionalization of order.  She identifies a post-conflict interaction between the mobilization of rebels, criminal gangs, and counterinsurgency and policing that leads to distinct patterns of local management of order. This involves the intercession of informal practices and institutions alongside the development of formal institutions. This tailor-made maintenance of order adapts practices and institutions from the political center, while simultaneously shaping them to deal with local challenges of monitoring the activities of diverse and often insular communities and regulating behavior and relationships that formal rules and institutions do not anticipate. Her research in the Caucasus received support from the ZEIT-Stiftung’s Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius fieldwork grant.



Christa Kuntzelman


Christa Kuntzelman came to Northwestern after earning an MS in International Public Service. Her interests lie in how refugees act as agents during displacement to contribute to original and settlement communities. She has studied and worked overseas; in Haiti where she was doing trauma and resiliency work with local NGOs, study abroad in Tanzania to investigate international partnerships in development, and study abroad in Paris to speak French better! Her research goals include developing a better understanding of how urban settlement vs traditional encampment policies affect refugees’ capacities to contribute to their home communities. Much of her recent work is in East Africa, and she is spending part of summer 2016 in Uganda, where she is associated with the Centre for Basic Research.



Sean Lee


Sean Lee came to us after a teaching stint at the American University of Beirut.  Sean’s BA is from Mercer University & his MA is from the Sorbonne & Ecole des hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. Sean investigates the strategies of minority groups in civil conflicts; why some groups ally with stronger ones while others go it alone and others simply exit. He finds that these choices do not necessarily reflect relative balances of military capabilities or calculations about the value of external ties. His suspicion is that these choices reflect the nature of inter-elite networks and in how minority group leaders incorporate these in their calculations about risk.  His field research for this project focuses on Lebanon and Rwanda and includes consideration of other recent cases in the Middle East.  He has received a Keyman Modern Turkish Studies Research Grant and a US Department of State Critical Language Scholarship, US Department of Education Title VI – Foreign Language & Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships, and a Fulbright-Hays Dissertation Research award to support his field research in Africa and the Middle East.



Jahara Matisek


Jahara (Franky) Matisek comes to us from the US Air Force where he is an officer and has been a C-17A and T-6 Instructor Pilot, 80th Flying Training Wing. His research interests include consideration of the impacts of new war fighting tactics on insurgent organizational and operational behavior.  He observes gaps between expected and observed outcomes in uses of air power, for example, against insurgent leadership.  These interests are related to broader questions about how combatants in contemporary conflicts adapt to shifts in balances and applications of force. He was chosen to participate in the University of Texas at Austin Clements Center for National Security’s 2016 Summer Seminar in History and Statecraft in Beaver Creek, Colorado. He participated in the 2017 Summer Workshop on Analysis of Military Operations and Strategies Workshop (SWAMOS). He also is the winner of the 2016 General Larry D. Welch Deterrence Writing Award for his paper, “Gray Deterrence.”  One also can check out his ideas in Small Wars Journal.



Salih Nur


Salih Nur comes to our program from University of Gothenburg, Göteborg. His tentative title for research is “The Legacies of Liberation: Critical Junctures and Regime Development in Post-liberation Africa”. The objective of this project is to examine the impact of the organizational structures and practices of successful armed liberation movements on structures of governance after they acquire state power. He has identified several mechanisms through which armed group organization affects the post-conflict pathways of political development. Salih has conducted preliminary research in southern Africa for this project. Several products of his research appear at



David Peyton


David Peyton comes to us from Wheaton College by way of the National Defense University. He studies relationships between business groups and municipal authorities in eastern Congo. He seeks to explain why varied social orders develop across municipalities in this region of persistent instability and very weak formal state authority. David suspects that mutual concerns to protect commercial operations and assets represent an alternative to classical ideas about how and why state authority becomes institutionalized in ways that provide an increasing array of public goods. In a nutshell, David finds that this urge to protect commercial resources can replace external threat as a mechanism that pushes actors to construct state-like institutions, including ones that protect and mobilize people outside of these narrower business interests. David won a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (2015-16).