The effects of state violence on social networks, collective action and pro-social behaviour during conflict: Evidence from Kachin State, Myanmar

Project Active from to State and State Effectiveness

How do social relations form during and after conflict? More specifically, how do experiences of violence explain attitudes towards:

  • Peace and punishment?
  • The formation of new networks and intra-ethnic cooperation among host communities and displaced people?
  • And displaced people from different villages and communities?

Although the study of political violence is a burgeoning field, few studies have explicitly considered the effects of state-led violence on social network formation, especially during wartime. Understanding how state repression affects its victims and their social lives is crucial for understanding strategic choices by several groups.

This study will collect individual level survey data from internally displaced persons (IDP) in Kachin State, Myanmar. To causally identify the effect of experiences of violence, a novel identification strategy will be employed. This leverages variation in the level of violence experienced by individuals within villages. Similarly, variation in the level of violence experienced by neighbours within IDP camps is leveraged. The study will measure both attitudinal and behavioural outcomes - along with collecting fine-grained social network data - in order to elicit how repression shapes the collected behaviour of its victims. Thus speaking to a large literature on protest and mobilisation.

Although past studies have considered the impact of violence and repression on attitudes, and there is a large literature examining the relationship between violence and pro-social behaviour, this study is novel both through its identification strategy and its fine-grained social network data. This is an important step forward in the study of political violence, as it allows a clearer understanding of how social networks transform due to violence.

This project has implications for aid organisations and community service organisations in conflict settings. Understanding how communities form in displaced settings is vital in order to design effective aid targeting strategies and engage with local power structures. Moreover, mapping the creation of new social networks will inform the design of social cohesion interventions that can target the neediest and most vulnerable in displaced settings. Although these findings will be most significant for organizations working in Kachin, they will also have lessons for other conflict settings.