a1 Yale University
What is the political legacy of violent conflict? I present evidence for a link from past violence to increased political engagement among excombatants. The evidence comes from northern Uganda, where rebel recruitment generated quasiexperimental variation in who was conscripted by abduction. Survey data suggest that abduction leads to substantial increases in voting and community leadership, largely due to elevated levels of violence witnessed. Meanwhile, abduction and violence do not appear to affect nonpolitical participation. These patterns are not easily explained by conventional theories of participation, including mobilization by elites, differential costs, and altruistic preferences. Qualitative interviews suggest that violence may lead to personal growth and political activation, a possibility supported by psychological research on the positive effects of traumatic events. Although the generalizability of these results requires more evidence to judge, the findings challenge our understanding of political behavior and point to important new avenues of research.
I thank Jeannie Annan, my co-Investigator on the Survey of War Affected Youth (SWAY). For comments, I also thank Robert Bates, Khristopher Carlson, Macartan Humphreys, David Leonard, Dyan Mazurana, Edward Miguel, Betsy Levy Paluck, Gérard Roland, David Roodman, Cyrus Samii, Chris Udry, and Jeremy Weinstein, several anonymous referees, and seminar participants at Yale University, Columbia University, ECARES, and CGD. For data collection, I thank Roger Horton, Okot Godfrey, the SWAY field research assistants, AVSI Uganda, and UNICEF Uganda. Military escorts during data collection were provided by the Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF). The survey was funded by grants from UNICEF (via AVSI Uganda), the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (via the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center), the Russell Sage Foundation, the International Peace Research Association Foundation, the UC Berkeley Center for African Studies, and the UC Berkeley Institute for Economic and Business Research.