Dissertation Research: "The Logic of Coercive Kidnapping" Committee: Alex Downes (chair), Evgeny Finkel, and Cynthia McClintock
Global kidnapping has spiked dramatically over the last several decades, as violent, political organizations (VPOs) including rebels, terrorists, and paramilitaries abduct civilians in war. While the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, and the FARC ravage communities and confound policymakers, there has been no scholarly examination of this tool of coercion. By examining when and why VPOs kidnap, my research fills this gap. I ask: First, why do some VPOs engage in kidnapping whereas others do not? Second, if a group does kidnap, what explains variation in targeting and demands? I argue that kidnapping is an unexplored but critical component of VPOs' protection schemes. Itself a form of extortion, kidnapping is part and parcel of a much broader system to extract tribute from local populations. It is used both as the most lucrative way to punish those who refuse to pay the VPOs' taxes, as well as an extremely effective, strategic message to compel others to cooperate. In this way, kidnapping is both tactical and strategic for VPOs.
To examine when and why armed groups choose this particular tactic, I leverage qualitative evidence from interviews with ex-combatants from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), as well as quantitative analysis of an original, global dataset of nearly 1,900 VPOs. Through individual case studies and competing risks duration models that estimate the timing and likelihood of kidnapping outcomes, my dissertation provides a novel explanation for a persistent and perplexing type of violence against civilians worldwide.
Publications: "Terrorism by Any Other Name," Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 31, No. 2 (2019): 417-420. Online here. "Organized Violence Between War and Peace," Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 29, No. 2 (2017): 377-383. Online here.
Policy Writing: "Trump claims he's the greatest hostage negotiator ever. So why did he make it harder to bring Americans home?" Monkey Cage blog, The Washington Post, April 29, 2019. Online here. "'No Concessions'? A Closer Look at U.S. Hostage Recovery Policy." War on the Rocks, February 27, 2019. Online here. "What the Dublin Tram System Hack Reveals about the Future of Hostage Taking." Just Security, January 11, 2019. Online here. "The U.S. believes that kidnapped journalist Austin Tice is still alive. Here are 5 things to know about global kidnapping." Monkey Cage blog, The Washington Post, December 4, 2018. Online here. "Will Colombia's next president be a former left-wing guerrilla?" Monkey Cage blog, The Washington Post, June 15, 2018. Online here. "How a Decade of the iPhone Changed Global Kidnapping," War on the Rocks, January 4, 2018. Online here.
Book Reviews: Review of Kidd, Dustin. Social Media Freaks: Digital Identity in the Network Society. Terrorism and Political Violence, forthcoming. Review of de la Calle, Luis, Nationalist Violence in Postwar Europe. H-Nationalism, H-Net Reviews. November 2017. Online here. Working Papers: "The Oxygen of Publicity: Explaining U.S. Media Coverage of International Kidnapping" (under review) "The Logic of Coercive Kidnapping: Evidence from Colombia" "Weapon of the Week: A Brief History of Political Kidnapping" "Eulogizing National Violence, Affirming Divine Right, or Glorifying Liberal Values? Explaining Variation in National Anthem Types" (co-authored with Professor Harris Mylonas of George Washington University)
Datasets: Kidnapping by Violent Political Organizations, 1970-2015 (in progress) U.S. Media Coverage of International Kidnappings, 2001-2015 (in progress)
Fieldwork: Colombia (2017, 2018) Israel and the West Bank (2006)