Diffusion Patterns of Violence in Civil Wars

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Schutte, Sebastian; & Weidmann, Nils (2011) Diffusion Patterns of Violence in Civil Wars , Political Geography 30(3): 143–152.

Much of the current conflict literature attempts to explain the occurrence of violence as the result of determinants exogenous to the conflict process. This paper takes a different approach and analyzes how violence in civil wars spreads in space and time, drawing on earlier work on micro-diffusion of violence in criminology as well as high resolution conflict data. Two general scenarios are distinguished in our analysis: the relocation and the escalation of conflict. Relocation diffusion corresponds to a shift in the location of violence, whereas escalation diffusion refers to the spatial expansion of the conflict site. We argue that unconventional warfare in civil wars without demarcated front lines should primarily lead to the second type of pattern. We describe an extension to a joint count statistic to measure both diffusion types in conflict event data. Monte Carlo simulation allows for the establishment of a baseline for the frequency of contiguous conflict events under the assumption of independence, and thus provides a significance test for the observed patterns. Our results suggest that violence in civil wars exhibits patterns of diffusion, and in particular, that these patterns are primarily of the escalation type, driven by the dynamic expansion of the scope of the conflict.​

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Nils Weidmann

Nils Weidmann

Senior Researcher