A CSCW Workshop was held at PRIO 17-18 August, on The Role of First Actors in civil war. The workshop was organized by Martha Snodgrass and Roger D. Petersen for the working group on Microfoundations of Civil War.

The role of first actors

The workshop aims to examine “first actors” in civil wars. Two central elements of civil war are 1) groups or actors contending for control of the state (or at least a region of state-control) 2) the presence of violence. First actors are those individuals who transform contentious politics into civil war through the introduction of violence. A country may be experiencing problems or protests, but the situation is not a civil war until violence breaks out. The workshop studies the agents behind this transformation.

Civil war is broadly defined here and includes resistance to occupation and wars for independence. While many lessons can be learned from the actions of leaders of non-violent movements, the focus here, keeping with the overall purpose of the group remains on civil war. In further keeping with the aims of the Microfoundations of Civil War working group, we will focus mainly on individual-level preferences, beliefs, and actions. Then we will examine the social and political structures these individuals are embedded in and the dynamic process leading to civil war set off by the actions of first actors.

Thursday 17 Aug
11:30 Greeting, introductions
11:45-13:00 Panel 1: Existing Views of First Actors—Definitions, Typologies, Biases
Roundtable discussion, chaired by Scott Gates
13:00-14:00 Lunch (at PRIO)
14:00-16:00 Panel 2: Belief Formation of First Actors
a. Diego Gambetta/Steffen Hertog, (Engineers of Jihad)
b. Greg Reichberg (Jacques Maritain and the French Resistance)
c. Stephen Saideman, discussant & chair
18:00 Dinner (Restaurant Südøst)
Friday 18 Aug
8:30-10:30 Panel 3: Social Embeddedness of First Actors
a. Kristian Harpviken (Refugee Mobilization)
b. Yuhki Tajima (Insurgent Interlopers and Ethnic Violence)
c. Martin Austvoll (Theorising the International Escalation of ‘Ethnic’ Conflict)d. Jeffrey Checkel, discussant & chair
11:00-13:00 Panel 4: First Actors and the Dynamics of Civil War
a. Jon Elster (Is Collective Action Relevant for the Study of Civil Wars?) NEW added 16 Augb. Ian Lustick (Defining Violence: a Plausibility Probe Using Agent-Based Modeling) UPDATED version from 14 Aug, see also appendix
c. Roger Petersen (First Actors, Social Norms and ‘Tipping Effects’)d. Scott Gates, discussant & chair
13:00-14:00 Lunch (at PRIO)
14:00-16:00 Panel 5: Cases
a. Yukhi Tajima (Displacing the Risks of Joining Insurgencies with the Threat
of Ethnic Violence) Available upon request from the author.
b. Sabrina Ramet (The Denial Syndrome and Its Consequences: Serbian Political Culture since 2000)
c. Roger Petersen (Memory and Cultural Schema: Linking Memory to Political Action)
d. Discussion chaired by Jon Elster
16:15-17:00 Summary, future plans
Discussion chaired by Roger Petersen
First Actors Workshop concept paper
Panel 3: Tajima
Panel 4: Lustick UPDATED VERSION 14 Aug
Panel 5: Ramet
Panel 3: Austvoll
Panel 5: Petersen
First Actors Workshop program
Paper abstracts received to date
Panel 4: Petersen chapter (mechanisms & processes)
Panel 4: Lustick paper Appendix (excel)
Panel 4: Elster (NEW--added 16 august)
Yuhki Tajima