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Conflict Capital by Christine Cheng (King’s College London)

  • Seminar Room G, Manor Road Building Oxford, OX1 3UQ (map)

This event is open to the public and a light lunch will be served outside the seminar room at 12.50pm.

What factors explain the success or failure of a post-conflict transition? Scholars have long attempted to answer this question, yet this extensive literature is mostly grounded in the study of the politics of civil wars, and has broadly overlooked the social impact of civil war. This paper addresses this gap by introducing the concept of conflict capital. Building on the concept of social capital, ‘conflict capital’ refers to a society’s norms, networks, and bonds of trust that are created in the crucible of civil war, through intense experiences with violence. Incorporating conflict capital into our understanding of post-conflict transitions contributes to a more complete understanding of violence in the aftermath of war, and some of the puzzling social dynamics of post-conflict transitions. This article sketches out a model of how conflict capital is created, destroyed, and activated. It argues that the intensity of shared war experiences leads to more resilient post-war networks and increased “stickiness” in building and maintaining bonds of trust. The paper concludes by offering several hypotheses to be empirically tested in the field.
Christine Cheng is Lecturer in War Studies at King’s College London. Her research on post-conflict transitions sits at the intersection of international relations and comparative politics (with a focus on the politics of West Africa). Dr Cheng is the co-editor of Corruption and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding: Selling the Peace? (with Dominik Zaum). Her forthcoming book on Extralegal Groups (Oxford University Press) explores the role of ex-combatants on statebuilding processes after the end of civil war in Liberia. Christine holds a DPhil from Oxford (Nuffield College) and an MPA from Princeton University (Woodrow Wilson School). Previously, she was the Bennett Boskey Fellow in Politics at Exeter College, University of Oxford. She is a commentator on international affairs for a variety of media outlets including the BBC, the Wall Street Journal, al Jazeera, Radio France International, and Real Clear World. She tweets @cheng_christine and blogs at