Book - Oxford University Press

Civil Action and the Dynamics of Violence

    Editors:
  • Deborah Avant
  • Marie Berry
  • Rachel Epstein
  • Cullen Hendrix
  • Oliver Kaplan
  • Timothy Sisk
| September 2019

Civil Action and the Dynamics of Violence

The battlefield isn’t the only place where a war’s path can change. Meeting rooms, negotiating tables, community gatherings, and peaceful demonstrations have elicited significant shifts in conflicts in Mexico, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and beyond.

The Second Liberian Civil War, for example, ended in 2003 after a network of women’s groups came together. In addition to organizing a sex strike, the network issued press statements, organized protests, and lobbied Liberian president Charles Taylor to attend peace talks with Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia. Once talks were underway, the network created a human barrier to prevent negotiators from leaving the table until a deal was reached.

This is not an isolated incident. A new book edited by Erica Chenoweth, Deborah Avant, Marie Berry, Rachel Epstein, Cullen Hendrix, Oliver Kaplan, and Timothy Sisk, “Civil Action and the Dynamics of Violence,” looks at conflicts in Syria, Peru, Kenya, Northern Ireland, Mexico, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Spain, and Colombia to explore the role that civil action played.

Civil action, defined as behavior meant to engage others to resist violence without using violence, plays a crucial and often-neglected role in deciding the fates of conflict around the world, the editors write. Civil action can be contentious, conciliatory, or cooperative, and the book illustrates the mechanisms through which civil action is likely to dampen or escalate violence.

“The volume adds to a growing body of work that acknowledges how much (or most) of how people interact in the course of civil wars is not violent, and also that many people find ways to build and wield power in warzones. People living in conflict-affected areas often develop skill and capacity to survive by avoiding, preventing, or deescalating violence – and those acts often make a huge difference in their lives, in the lives of those around them, and in the trajectory of the conflict as a whole,” says Chenoweth, a co-editor of the volume.

Select Reviews

  • “One of the most important recent findings is that civil action can be a surprisingly effective way for citizens to keep their governments in line while avoiding violence. If you want to know how citizens can do this-even in an era of democratic decline-read this book. It couldn't come at a better time.” – Barbara F. Walter, Professor of Political Science, University of California, San Diego
     
  • “Studies of conflict focus primarily on violence and generally see civilians as victims of this violence. This excellent book shows how nonviolent activities by non-state actors can build and maintain relationships in the middle of fighting, lead to lower levels of violence, and contribute to the resolution of civil wars. A series of impressive case studies of conflicts from Syria to Northern Ireland and Bosnia to Afghanistan show the many and important ways that civil action can shape the dynamics of civil wars.” – David E. Cunningham, Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Government and Politics, University of Maryland

About This Book

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Civil Action and the Dynamics of Violence
Deborah Avant Marie Berry Rachel Epstein Cullen Hendrix Oliver Kaplan Timothy Sisk
For more information on this publication: Please contact International Security
For Academic Citation: Civil Action and the Dynamics of Violence. Edited by Erica Chenoweth, Deborah Avant, Marie Berry, Rachel Epstein, Cullen Hendrix, Oliver Kaplan and Timothy Sisk. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, September 2019.

The Editors