- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Amanda Rizkallah: The Significance of “Statelets” in Civil Wars

  • Stephanie Wheeler
| Spring 2016

Inspired by her Lebanese heritage and childhood visits to family in Lebanon during a tense occupation period in the 1980s and 90s, Amanda Rizkallah has devoted her dissertation research to unravelling the complications of a post-war Lebanon.

This was how Rizkallah, a pre-doctoral research fellow with the Belfer Center’s Middle East Initiative (MEI), found herself drawn to the Belfer Center and its Middle East program. “Everyone participating seems to truly understand the Middle East, and that’s important,” she said.

Although her research here is still relatively new, she has already noted some significant patterns. One particular finding that Rizkallah feels is crucial to understanding the war in Lebanon and possibly elsewhere is the formation of “statelets” during times of conflict.

These are “smaller states forming within the conventional territories,” she explained. Local people with no past government experience step in to take control. “A common misconception is that there is constant chaos after a civil war,” she said, noting that in reality there is almost always someone or some group that is governing a particular area.

While Rizkallah realizes these findings aren’t ground-breaking, she believes they are significant. “When a civil war is done,” she noted, “you have to somehow create unity between all these micro-states.”

Another aspect of her research is looking at patterns of territorial control and violence that have been influenced by a war that was supposed to have already ended. History, she said, sets a defined line for the end of wars for simplicity’s sake, while in reality, the line for when a war ends is always blurred.

“I never wanted to be the type of academic who was just theoretical,” Rizkallah said when asked what she hopes to do with this research. While there’s still a long way to go, she hopes to transform her dissertation into a book. For now, she continues to look for patterns in Lebanon’s complicated post-civil war history in the hopes that she can shed some light on ways to better the future of Lebanon and other post-civil war countries.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Wheeler, Stephanie. Amanda Rizkallah: The Significance of “Statelets” in Civil Wars.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Spring 2016).

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