Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Risks: Participation in an Ethnic Rebellion

  • GÜNEŞ MURAT TEZCÜR (a1)
Abstract

Why do ordinary people take extraordinary risks and join an ethnic armed rebellion? This article tests a series of well-established hypotheses about selfish and identity based motivations and a new hypothesis based on prospect theory. It then employs a unique multimethod research strategy combining one of the most comprehensive datasets on insurgent recruitment that contains biographical information about 8,266 Kurdish militants with extensive fieldwork involving in-depth interviews with relatives of the militants to test these hypotheses. The findings show the decision to rebel is as much political as economic and social. While security concerns and expectations of benefits affect the decision to rebel, social commitments, identities radicalized by state repression, and collective threat perceptions among efficacious individuals generated by political mobilization, rather than preexisting ethnic cleavages, also lead to participation in an ethnic insurgency. The latter findings explain the durability of insurgencies with limited economic resources and their ability to attract educated fighters.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Güneş Murat Tezcür is Jalal Talabani Chair of Kurdish Political Studies, Department of Political Science, University of Central Florida (tezcur@ucf.edu; www.tezcur.org).
References
Hide All
Akerlof, George A., and Kranton, Rachel E.. 2000. “Economics and Identity.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 115 (3): 715–53.
Akerlof, George A., and Kranton, Rachel E.. 2005. “Identity and the Economics of Organizations.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 19 (1): 932.
Anderson, Benedict. 1991. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Revised ed. London: Verso.
Arjona, M. Ana, and Kalyvas, Stathis N.. 2011. “Recruitment into Armed Groups in Colombia: A Survey of Demobilized Fighters.” In Understanding Political Violence, ed. Guichaoua, Y., York:, New Palgrave Macmillan, 143–71.
Aspinal, Edward. 2009. Islam and Nation: Separatist Rebellion in Aceh, Indonesia. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Bandura, Albert, 1994. “Self-efficacy.” In Encyclopedia of Human Behavior, ed. Ramachaudran, V. S., New York: Academic, 7181.
Beber, Bernd, and Blattman, Christopher. 2013. “The Logic of Child Soldiering and Coercion.” International Organization 67 (1): 65104.
Bell, Andrew, and Jones, Kelvyn, 2015. “Explaining Fixed Effects: Random Effects Modelling of Time-Series Cross-Sectional and Panel Data.” Political Science Research and Methods 3 (1): 133–53.
Berekejian, Jeffrey. 1992. “Revolutionary Collective Action and the Agent-Structure Problem.” American Political Science Review 86 (3): 647–57.
Blattman, Christopher, and Miguel, Edward. 2010. “Civil War.” Journal of Economic Literature 48 (1): 357.
Bueno de Mesquita, Ethan. 2010. “Regime Change and Revolutionary Entrepreneurs.” American Political Science Review 104 (3): 446–66.
Cederman, Lars-Erik, Wimmer, Andreas, and Min, Brian, 2010. “Why Do Ethnic Groups Rebel? New Data and Analysis.” World Politics 62 (1): 87119.
Çelebi, Elif, Verkuyten, Maykel, Köse, Talha, and Maliepaard, Mieke. 2014. “Out-group Trust and Conflict Understandings: The Perspective of Turks and Kurds in Turkey.” International Journal of Intercultural Relations 40: 6475.
Chandra, Kanchan, and Wilkinson, Steven. 2008. “Measuring the Effect of “Ethnicity.” Comparative Political Studies 41 (4–5): 515–63.
Cohen, Dara Kay. 2013. “Female Combatants and the Perpetration of Violence: Wartime Rape in the Sierra Leone Civil War.” World Politics 65 (3): 383415.
Cohen, Nissim, and Arieli, Tamar. 2011. “Field Research in Conflict Environments: Methodological Challenges and Snowball Sampling. “Journal of Peace Research 48 (4): 423–35.
Coleman, James S. 1990. Foundations of Social Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Collier, Paul, Hoeffler, Anke, and Rohner, Dominic. 2008. “Beyond Greed and Grievances: Feasibility and Civil War.” Oxford Economic Papers 61 (1): 127.
Davenport, Christian, and Ball, Patrick. 2002. “Exploring the Implications of Source Selection in the Case of Guatemalan State Terror, 1977-1995.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 46 (3): 427–50.
de Quervain, Dominique J.-F., Fischbacher, Urs, Treyer, Valerie, Schelhammer, Melanie, Schnyder, Ulrich, Buck, Alfred, and Fehr, Ernst. 2004. The Neural Basis of Altruistic Punishment.” Science 305: 1254–8.
Degregori, Carlos Iván. 1998. “Harvesting Storms: Peasant Rondas and the Defeat of Sendero Luminoso in Ayacucho.” In Shining Path and Other Paths: War and Society in Peru, 1980-1995, ed. Stern, S. J., Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 128–57.
Deycard, Frédéric. 2011. “Political Cultures and Tuareg Mobilizations: Rebels of Niger, from Kaocen to the Mouvement des Nigériens pour la Justice.” In Understanding Political Violence, ed. Guichaoua, Y., New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 4664.
Eck, Kristine, 2010. “Recruiting Rebels: Indoctrination and Political Education in Nepal.” In The Maoist Insurgency in Nepal: Revolution in the Twenty-First Century, eds. Lawoti, M. and Pahari, A. K., London: Routledge, 3351.
Ellemers, Naomi, Spears, Russell, and Doosje, Bertjan. 2002. “Self and Social Identity.” Annual Review of Psychology 53: 161–86.
Elster, Jon. 1985. “Rationality, Morality, and Collective Action.” Ethics 96: 136–55.
Elster, Jon, 1990. “Norms of Revenge.” Ethics 100 (4): 862–85.
Elster, Jon, 1998. “Emotions and Economic Theory.” Journal of Economic Literature XXXVI: 4774.
Fanon, Franz. 2004. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove.
Fearon, James, and Laitin, David. 2003. “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War.” American Political Science Review 97 (1): 7590.
Feldman, Allen. 1998. Formations of Power. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Finkel, Steven E., Muller, Edward N., and Opp, Karl-Dieter, 1989. “Personal Influence, Collective Rationality, and Mass Political Action,” The American Political Science Review 83 (3): 885903.
Fujii, Lee Ann. 2010. “Shades of Truth and Lies: Interpreting Testimonies of War and Violence.” Journal of Peace Research 47 (2): 231–41.
Gardner, Margo, and Steinberg, Laurence. 2005. “Peer Influence on Risk Taking, Risk Preference, and Risky Decision Making in Adolescence and Adulthood: An Experimental Study.” Development Psychology 41 (4): 625–35.
Gates, Scott. 2002. “Recruitment and Allegiance: The Microfoundations of Rebellion.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 46 (1): 111–30.
Geddes, Barbara. 1990. “How the Cases You Affect the Answers You Get: Selection Bias in Comparative Politics.” Political Analysis 2 (1): 131–50.
Goodwin, Jeff. 2001. No Other Way Out: States and Revolutionary Movements, 1945-1951. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Gould, Roger V. 1991. “Multiple Networks and Mobilization in the Paris Commune, 1871.” American Sociological Review 56 (6): 716–29.
Granovetter, Mark. 1978. “Threshold Models of Collective Behavior.” American Journal of Sociology 83 (6): 1420–43.
Gurr, Ted Robert. 1970. Why Men Rebel? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Gurses, Mehmet. 2015. “Transnational Kin and Civil War Outcomes,” Political Research Quarterly 68 (1): 142–53.
Gutiérrez Sanín, Francisco, and Wood, Elisabeth Jean, 2014. “Ideology in Civil War: Instrumental Adoption and Beyond,” Journal of Peace Research 51 (2): 213–26.
Haerem, Thorvald, Kuvaas, Bård, Bakken, Bjørn T., and Karlsen, Tone. 2011. “Do Military Decision Makers Behave as Predicted by Prospect Theory?Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 24: 482–97.
Hale, Henry E. 2008. The Foundations of Ethnic Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Harp Tarihi Başkanlığı. 1992. Genelkurmay Belgelerinde Kürt İsyanları;. 3 Volumes. İstanbul: Kaynak Yayınları, 1992.
Hechter, Michael. 1987. Principles of Group Solidarity. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Hirshleifer, Jack. 1995. “Theorizing about Conflict.” In Handbook of Defense Economics, eds. Hartley, K. and Sandler, T.. Vol. 1. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 165–92.
Horowitz, Donald L. 2000. Ethnic Groups in Conflict. 2nd ed. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Humphreys, Macartan, and Weinstein, Jeremy M.. 2008. “Who Fights? The Determinants of Participation in Civil War.” American Journal of Political Science 52 (2): 436–55.
Kahneman, Daniel. 2011. Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Kahneman, Daniel, and Tversky, Amos. 1979. “Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk.” Econometrica 47 (2): 263–92.
Kalyvas, Stathis N. 2006. The Logic of Violence in Civil War. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Kalyvas, Stathis N., and Kocher, Matthew A.. 2007. “How “Free” is Free Riding in Civil Wars? Violence, Insurgency, and the Collective Action Problem.” World Politics 59 (2): 177216.
Kibris, Arzu, 2015. “The Conflict Trap Revisited: Civil Conflict and Educational Achievement.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 59 (4): 645–70.
Kilcullen, David. 2009. The Accidental Guerilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One. New York: Oxford University Press.
Krueger, Norris, and Dickson, Peter R.. 1994. “How Believing in Ourselves Increases Risk Taking: Perceived Self-Efficacy and Opportunity Recognition.” Decision Sciences 25 (3): 385400.
Lee, Alexander. 2011. “Who Becomes a Terrorist?: Poverty, Education, and the Origins of Political Violence.” World Politics 63 (2): 203–45.
Lerner, Jennifer S., and Keltner, Dacher. 2001. “Fear, Anger, and Risk.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 81 (1): 146–59.
Lichbach, Mark. 1994. “What Makes Rational Peasants Revolutionary? Dilemma, Paradox, and Irony in Peasant Collective Action.” World Politics 36 (3): 383418.
List, Christian, and Spiekermann, Kai. 2013. “Methodological Individualism and Holism in Political Science.” American Political Science Review 107 (4): 629–43.
Lyall, Jason, Blair, Graeme, and Imai, Kosuke. 2013. “Explaining Support for Combatants during Wartime: A Survey Experiment in Afghanistan.” American Political Science Review 107 (3): 679705.
Marcus, Aliza. 2007. Blood and Belief: The PKK and the Kurdish Fight for Independence. New York: New York University Press.
Mason, T. David. 2004. Caught in the Crossfire: Revolution, Repression, and the Rational Peasant. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.
Mason, T. David, and Krane, Dale A.. 1989The Political Economy of Death Squads: Toward a Theory of the Impact of State-sanctioned Terror.” International Studies Quarterly 33 (2): 175–98.
McAdam, Doug. 1986. “Recruitment to High-Risk Activism: The Case of Freedom Summer.” American Journal of Sociology 92 (1): 6490.
McAdam, Doug, Tarrow, Sidnew, and Tilly, Charles. 2001. Dynamics of Contention. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
McCarthy, John D., and Zald, Mayer N.. 1977. “Resource Mobilization and Social Movements: A Partial Theory.” American Journal of Sociology 82 (6): 1212–40.
McDermott, Rose. 2004, “Prospect Theory in Political Science: Gains and Losses from the First Decade.” Political Psychology 25: 289312.
McDermott, Rose, James, H. Fowler, and Smirnov, Oleg. 2008. “On the Evolutionary Origin of Prospect Theory Preferences.” Journal of Politics 70: 335–60.
Mercer, Jonathan. 2005. “Prospect Theory and Political Science.” Annual Review of Political Science 8: 121.
Mutlu, Servet. 1996. “Ethnic Kurds in Turkey: A Demographic Study.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 28 (4): 517–41.
Niemi, Richard G., Craig, Stephen C., and Mattei, Franco. 1991. “Measuring Internal Political Efficacy in the 1988 National Election Study.” American Political Science Review 85 (4): 1407–13.
Norris, Pippa. 2002. Democratic Phoenix: Reinventing Political Activism. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Olson, Mancur. 1965. Logic of Collective Action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Ostrom, Elinor. 2003. “Toward a Behavioral Theory Linking Trust, Reciprocity, and Reputation.” In Trust and Reciprocity, eds. Ostrom, E. and Walker, J.. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1979.
Parkinson, Sarah Elizabeth. 2013. “Organizing Rebellion: Rethinking High-Risk Mobilization and Social Networks in War.” American Political Science Review 107 (3): 418–32.
Pateman, Carole. 1970. Participation and Democratic Theory. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Pecency, Mark, and Stanley, William D.. 2010. “Counterinsurgency in El Salvador.” Politics & Society 38 (1): 6794.
Petersen. Roger, D. 2001. Resistance and Rebellion: Lessons from Eastern Europe. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Petersen. Roger, D. 2002. Understanding Ethnic Violence: Fear, Hatred, and Resentment in Twentieth-Century Eastern Europe. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Posner, Daniel N. 2005. “The Political Salience of Cultural Difference: Why Chewas and Tumbukas Are Allies in Zambia and Adversaries in Malawi.” American Political Science Review 98 (4): 529–45.
Race, Jeffrey. 1972. War Comes to Long An: Revolutionary Conflict in a Vietnamese Province. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Romano, David. 2006. The Kurdish Nationalist Movement: Opportunity, Mobilization and Identity. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Saideman, Stephen M., Lanoue, David J., Campenni, Michael, and Stanton, Samuel. 2002. “Democratization, Political Institutions, and Ethnic Conflict: A Pooled Time-Series Analysis, 1985-1998.” Comparative Political Studies 35 (1): 103–29.
Salehyan, Idean. 2007. “Transnational Rebels: Neighboring States as Sanctuary for Rebel Groups.” World Politics 59 (2): 217–42.
Sambanis, Nicholas, Schulhofer-Wohl, Jonah, and Shayo, Moses. 2012. “Parochialism as a Central Challenge in Counterinsurgency.” Science 336: 805–8.
Sambanis, Nicholas, and Shayo, Moses. 2013. “Social Identification and Ethnic Conflict.” American Political Science Review 107 (2): 294325.
Shayo, Moses, 2009. “A Model of Social Identity with an Application to Political Economy: Nation, Class, and Redistribution.” American Political Science Review 103 (2): 147–74.
Smith, Benjamin, 2013. “Separatist Conflict in the Former Soviet Union and Beyond: How Different was Communism?World Politics 65 (2): 350–81.
Snow, David A., Rochford, E. Burke Jr., Worden, Steven K., and Benford, Robert D., 1986. “Frame Alignment Processes, Micromobilization, and Movement Participation.” American Sociological Review 51 (4): 464–81.
Stoll, David. 1993. Between Two Armies in the Ixil Towns of Guatemala. New York: Columbia University Press.
Sunstein, Cass R. 1996. “Social Norms and Social Roles.” Columbia Law Review 96: 903–68.
TBMM. 2013. Terör ve Şiddet Olayları Kapsamında Yaşam Hakkı İhlallerini İnceleme Raporu. Ankara: TBMM.
Tezcür, Güneş; Murat. 2010. “When Democratization Radicalizes? The Kurdish Nationalist Movement in TurkeyJournal of Peace Research 47 (6): 775–89.
Tilly, Charles. 1974. “Town and Country in Revolution.” In Peasant Rebellion and Communist Revolution in Asia, eds. Badgley, J. H. and Wilson, J., Stanford: Stanford University Press, 271302.
Tilly, Charles. 2003. The Politics of Collective Violence. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Tullock, Gordon. 1971. “The Paradox of Revolution.” Public Choice 11: 8999.
Tversky, Amos, and Kahneman, Daniel. 1991. “Loss Aversion in Riskless Choice: A Reference-Dependent Model.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 106 (4): 1039–61.
Varshney, Ashutosh. 2003. “Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Rationality.” Perspectives on Politics 1 (1): 8599.
Viterna, Jocelyn. 2013. Women in War: The Micro-Processes of Mobilization in El Salvador. New York: Oxford University Press.
Weinstein, Jeremy M. 2007. Inside Rebellion. New York: Cambridge University Press.
White, Robert W. 1989. “From Peaceful Protest to Guerilla War: Micromobilization of the Provisional Irish Republican Army.” American Journal of Sociology 94 (6): 1277–302.
Wimmer, Andreas. 2013. Waves of War: Nationalism, State Formation, and Ethnic Exclusion in the Modern World. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
Wood, Elisabeth J. 2003. Insurgent Collective Action and Civil War in El Salvador. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Wood, Elisabeth J. 2008. “The Social Process of Civil War: The Wartime Transformation of Social Networks.” Annual Review of Political Science 11: 539–61.
Wood, Elisabeth Jean. 2009. “Ethnographic Research in the Shadow of Civil War.” In Political Ethnography: What Immersion Contributes to the Study of Power, ed. Schatz, E.. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 119–42.
Wucherpfenning, Julian, Metternich, Nils W., Cederman, Lars-Erik, and Gleditsch, Kristian Skrede, 2012. “Ethnicity, the State, and the Duration of Civil War.” World Politics 64 (1): 79115.
Yılmaz, Aytekin. 2014. Yoldaşını Öldürmek. İstanbul: İletişim.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×
Type Description Title
PDF
Supplementary materials

Tezcür supplementary material
Online Appendix

 PDF (590 KB)
590 KB

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed