Stopping state repression: An examination of spells

Journal article

Davenport, Christian & Benjamin Appel (2022) Stopping state repression: An examination of spells, Journal of Peace Research 59 (5): 633–647.

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While research into why repression/human rights violation goes up or down has thrived over the past 50 years, essentially no effort has been made to examine what stops this behavior once under way – especially activity that is large-scale as well as violent. To address this topic, we put forward the idea of a repressive spell (similar to that in the study of war, civil war, and terrorism) and a new theoretical framework that conceptualizes repression as a sticky process that is unlikely to terminate unless it is disturbed in some manner. Such an orientation is important because it leads us to conclude that disturbance is more likely to happen under situations of democratization compared to any of the factors typically highlighted in the literature and relevant policy community. Investigating a new database regarding 239 large-scale repression spells from 1976 to 2006, we find that democratization is associated with spell-termination and there is little systematic pacifying influence from anything else. Additionally, we find that nonviolent movements for change principally drive democratization but that these movements have little direct impact on state repression spells in and of themselves.

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