2012 Lepgold Lecture: Alliance Formation in Civil Wars

On November 11th, the 2012 Lepgold Book Prize recipient Professor Fotini Christia (MIT) discussed her book, Alliance Formation in Civil Wars, at the Annual Lepgold Lecture at the Mortara Center. Lepgold committee member Andrew Bennett presented her with the medal honoring the late Georgetown professor, Joseph Lepgold. Other committee members,  Kathleen McNamara and David Edelstein, were joined by a number of faculty and students for the lively lecture and Q&A session.
 
In her book, Professor Christia analyzes the motivations and constant reconfiguration of wartime alliances during civil conflicts. Religious leanings, race, and ideological differences are often seen as uniting factors within civil conflict, but Christia argues that power considerations are the primary mechanism behind alliance formations.  As the power balance between warring groups evolves throughout the conflict, the changes in power distribution can lead to the reconfiguration of coalitions, and the volatility of these relationships is often linked to the degree of balance established between groups. 
 
Christia described her research methods for the book, which drew on interviews, primary sources, and data that conveyed shifts in relative power within Afghanistan. She tested her theory against different types of multiparty civil wars by looking into the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina before more generally analyzing other civil conflicts by statistical means to determine the general applicability of her theory.