Oliver Kaplan, University of Denver

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McGill University - Leacock Building #429

855 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest

Montréal, QC H3A 2T7

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Superstitions and Civilian Displacement: Evidence from the Colombian Conflict

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Violence during armed conflict has been explained using a variety of theories, including rationality, organizational dynamics, and personal and collective grievances. These explanations overlook the significance of what some might term “irrational” belief systems that are found in different countries among both combatants and the general population. Conflict-related religious and superstitious beliefs can shape civilians’ faith, resolve, optimism, social ties, and therefore levels of risk-acceptance and decisions to displace from their communities. This study explores new survey and interview data from Colombia and shows that a substantial share of the conflict-affected population holds a variety of conflict-related superstitious beliefs. It analyzes the determinants of these beliefs and assess their impacts on three key displacement-related outcomes: How likely are individuals to displace if their town is attacked; how able they are to cope with the difficulties of daily life in conflict zones (resilience); and whether they would recommend that displaced relatives return home. The paper uses regression analysis, statistical matching techniques, and interview and focus group accounts to assess the contributions of conflict-related superstitions and religious beliefs and practices to these outcomes. The paper concludes with a discussion of implications for the field of conflict studies, as the findings suggest existing theories of conflict and violence may be based on incomplete foundations and inaccurate models of decision-making.

Oliver Kaplan is an Associate Professor at the University of Denver. He is the author of the book, Resisting War: How Communities Protect Themselves (Cambridge University Press, 2017), which examines how civilian communities organize to protect themselves from wartime violence. He was a Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and previously a postdoctoral Research Associate at Princeton University in the Woodrow Wilson School and at Stanford University. As part of his research Kaplan has conducted fieldwork in Colombia and the Philippines. His research has been published in The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Peace Research, Conflict Management and Peace Science, Stability, The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, CNN, and National Interest. Kaplan received his Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University.

Location of in-person meeting: LEA429, McGill University.

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Date and time

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McGill University - Leacock Building #429

855 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest

Montréal, QC H3A 2T7

Canada

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Organizer of Oliver Kaplan, University of Denver

CIPSS Speaker Series is a weekly event organized and hosted by CIPSS at McGill University and its chapter (in French) at the University of Montreal, Montreal Quebec, Canada. These weekly events are held during the Fall or Winter academic terms every Friday from 12PM to 1:30PM, when an established IR or Comparative Politics scholar is invited to give a talk on their recently published or in-progress work. After 30-40 minutes of presentation from the speaker, the floor then opens to Q&A from the audience. These events are chaired by CIPSS Director and/or another Professor associated with CIPSS.

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