The War Disease: A Spatial-Temporal Analysis of Political Violence

Job Market Paper, University of Pittsburgh, October 2010

Shikha Basnet

“Social phenomena rarely occurs in isolation and civil wars are no exception. War has usually been viewed as a one dimensional phenomena and the spillover of war studied across international boundaries only. This paper is a first step towards building a conceptual framework to analyze violence upsurges in a more dynamic and disaggregated setting. Using data on the Maoist insurgency in Nepal, I propose a model that conceptualizes violence as a spatial-temporal process and then estimate the parameters of interest via the Maximum Likelihood technique. Like the spread of a disease, the spread of war can be broken down into two stages. First is the infection stage when initial areas become involved in war. The second stage occurs when the extent of violence in the a ected areas increases. In the model the two stages are correlated, which allows for unobserved heterogeneity in an area’s war receptivity to jointly influence the likelihood of war, and the intensity of violence upon war starting in the area. The main conclusion is that the key determinant of whether or not an area is drawn into a civil war is its proximity to areas that are already engaged in the civil war. Moreover, contrary to previous studies, socioe- conomic conditions related to greed, grievance, and opportunity become insigni cant once the proximity to conflict is accounted for.”