Mapping the Complexity of Civil Wars

Mapping the Complexity of Civil Wars

International Conference
September 15-17, 2005
Zurich, Switzerland


This conference, which is by invitation only, focuses on explanations of civil wars. Civil wars are complex processes. Still, the prevalent literature continues to treat them as relatively simple events. Contemporary scholars typically consider civil wars to be country-specific phenomena that can be explained by country-level attributes such as average national income, institutions and ethnic fractionalization. Useful as these comparative studies are, they suffer from several weaknesses:

  • First, they tend to over-aggregate local conditions, making it impossible to separate causal mechanisms operating in particular parts of the territory under specific local conditions.
  • Second, the conventional literature tends to ignore border-transgressing and border-transforming processes.
  • Third, most studies of civil wars frame their explanations as exogenous determinants rather than as endogenous processes.

This conference will explore methods that can better grasp the complexity of civil wars, some of which have so far received less attention in the applied literature, including agent-based modeling, spatial statistical analysis and geographic information systems.

The conference is organized by the International Conflict Research group at ETHZ and TAICON.

Program schedule (PDF)