Structure of Religion, Ethnicity & Insurgent Mobilization: Evidence from India

Author: Anoop Sarbahi

This paper problematizes the social structure of ethnic groups to account for the variation in insurgent mobilization within and across ethnic groups. Relying on network-based approaches to social structure, it argues that insurgent mobilization is constrained by the structural connectivity of the ethnic group, which measures the extent to which sub-ethnic communities – neighborhoods, villages, clans and tribes – are socially connected internally and with each other. In agrarian societies, structural connectivity is traced to religion. The paper leverages unique data on rebel recruitment from the Mizo insurgency in India and micro-level variations in changes associated with the spread of Christianity among Mizos to demonstrate that enhanced structural connectivity resulting from a network of highly-centralized churches and institutions under the Welsh Presbyterian Mission significantly bolstered insurgent recruitment. Semi-structured interviews of 77 Mizo insurgents and ethnographic evidence from the neighboring Meitei and Naga ethnic insurgencies further bolster the argument and casual mechanism.


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Chen Wang

Chen Wang is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Virginia specializing in International Relations. His research focuses on leaders’ reputation-building, diplomacy and foreign public opinion, terrorism, and China’s foreign policy. His dissertation examines under what conditions leadership turnovers tend to increase the risk of interstate conflicts. He is also completing a book manuscript (with Philip Potter) that examines how competing priorities facing the Chinese government shape its responses to political violence in Xinjiang. His research has been supported by the Quantitative Collaborative at the University of Virginia and the Quandt Fund for International Research. His work is forthcoming in the British Journal of Political Science.  He received B.A. in Economics and M.A. in International Economics from the University of International Relations, Beijing and M.S. in Applied Economics from Johns Hopkins University.

Danielle Villa

Danielle Villa is a PhD candidate in Political Science at Emory University. Her research focuses on conflict management and conflict dynamics. Danielle’s dissertation explores the role of host governments in United Nations peacekeeping operations; she examines how the need for government consent influences subnational peacekeeper deployments and peacekeeper effectiveness, with a regional focus on African civil wars. Danielle also has ongoing research projects about violence against civilians, foreign-imposed regime change, pro-government militias, and more. She holds an M.A. in Political Science from Emory University and a B.A. from Marist College. For more information on Danielle’s research, please visit

Rachel Tecott

Rachel Tecott is a PhD candidate in Political Science at MIT. Her research focuses on international security, military strategy, civil-military relations, and decision-making processes. Her dissertation examines US efforts to build partner militaries, and focuses specifically on the evolution of the US Army’s efforts to cajole, persuade, and push reticent political and military leaders of partner nations to take the steps necessary to improve their militaries. Rachel is also a co-founder and organizer of the Future Strategy Forum. Before MIT, Rachel studied nuclear proliferation and worked in political risk consulting. She holds a B.A. (Honors) from Wesleyan University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

Paul Orner

Paul Orner is a Ph.D candidate at the University of Southern California and an Adjunct Researcher at the RAND Corporation. He studies how Chinese perceptions of American alliance dynamics shape territorial disputes and Chinese assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific. Prior to studying at USC, Paul spent a number of years studying and working in East Asia.


Neha Ansari

Neha Ansari is a PhD Candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, where her doctoral studies focus on International Security and the Geopolitics of the Persian Gulf and South Asia. Her dissertation studies the shift in public opinion on American drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal belt. Before joining Fletcher for her doctorate, she was a visiting researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, focusing on Pakistan’s strategic culture and the Pakistani media. At the same time, she was also a Research Consultant for the Near East and South Asia (NESA) Center at National Defense University (NDU), Washington, DC. She has consulted for Sandia National Laboratories, given presentations and briefings to numerous military-security forums, including the U.S. Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group (AWG) and the U.S. Joint Staff’s Strategic Multilayer Conference. She was a Fulbright Scholar and has also been supported by the Eisenhower Roberts Graduate Fellowship, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, and the Bradley Foundation. She is originally from Karachi, Pakistan, where she previously worked as a journalist. She holds a Master of Arts in Law & Diplomacy (MALD) from the Fletcher School, and an M.A. and B.A. (Honors) from the University of Karachi, Pakistan.


Nicholas Anderson

Nicholas Anderson is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at Yale University. His research focuses on territorial expansion, historical and contemporary East Asian international relations, U.S. foreign policy, and nuclear proliferation and deterrence. In the academic year 2018-2019, he was a predoctoral fellow in the International Security Program at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He has also held fellowships with the Japan Foundation’s Center for Global Partnership and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. His research and other writings have been published or are forthcoming in International Security, Political Science Quarterly, The Washington Quarterly, Strategic Studies Quarterly, the Australian Journal of International Affairs, and International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, among other outlets. He has an M.A. in Security Studies from Georgetown University (2012) and a B.A. in Political Science and International Relations (2010) from the University of British Columbia.


Co-Director Charles L. Glaser

Charles L. Glaser is professor of political science and international affairs. His research focuses on international relations theory and international security policy.

Professor Glaser’s book, Rational Theory of International Politics was published by Princeton University Press in 2010. His research on international relations theory has focused on the security dilemma, defensive realism, the offense-defense balance, and arms races, including most recently “When Are Arms Races Dangerous?” in International Security (2004). His recent publications on U.S. nuclear weapons policy include “Counterforce Revisited” (with Steve Fetter), International Security (2005), and “National Missile Defense and the Future of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy” (with Fetter) International Security (2001). Professor Glaser’s work on American Cold War nuclear weapons policy culminated in his book, Analyzing Strategic Nuclear Policy (Princeton 1990).

Professor Glaser holds a Ph.D. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He received a BS in Physics from MIT, and an MA in Physics and an MPP from Harvard. Before joining the George Washington University, Professor Glaser was the Emmett Dedmon Professor of Public Policy and Deputy Dean at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. He has also taught political science at the University of Michigan; was a visiting fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford; served on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon; was a peace fellow at the United States Institute of Peace; and was a research associate at the Center of International Studies at MIT.

Dr. Glaser CV


Co-Director Alex Downes

Alexander B. Downes (Ph.D., University of Chicago, 2004) is Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the George Washington University. Downes’s book Targeting Civilians in War was published by Cornell University Press in 2008 and won the Joseph Lepgold Prize awarded by Georgetown University for the best book in international relations published in that year. Targeting Civilians in War previously won the Helen Dwight Reid Award for best dissertation in international relations, law, and politics in 2006 from the American Political Science Association.

Downes has published on a variety of subjects in international security, including civilian victimization, foreign-imposed regime change, military effectiveness, democracy, coercion, and solutions to civil wars. His work can be found in the British Journal of Political Science, Civil Wars, International Organization, International Security, Journal of Conflict Resolution, SAIS Review, and Security Studies, as well as multiple edited volumes. Downes was recently named the winner of the inaugural Emerging Scholar Award, given by the International Security Studies Section of the International Studies Association to recognize scholars under the age of 45, or within fifteen years of receiving a Ph.D., who are judged to have made (through the body of their publications) the most significant contribution to the field of security studies.

Downes has held fellowships at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (2007/08) and Olin Institute for Strategic Studies (2002/03), and the Center for International Security and Cooperation (2003/04) at Stanford University. His work has been funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Eisenhower Institute, Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, and Office of Naval Research. Before joining the GW faculty, Downes was Assistant Professor of Political Science at Duke University from 2004-2011. He holds a B.A. in Music (magna cum laude) from Brown University and an M.A. in International Relations (with honors) from the University of Chicago.


No Business Like FIRC Business: Foreign-Imposed Regime Change and Bilateral Trade,” British Journal of Political Science (published online, August 3, 2015; with Paul Zachary and Kathleen Deloughery).

Forced to Be Free: Why Foreign-Imposed Regime Change Rarely Leads to Democratization,” International Security 37, no. 4 (Spring 2013): 90-131 (with Jonathan Monten).

The Illusion of Democratic Credibility,” International Organization 66, no. 3 (Summer 2012): 457-489 (with Todd S. Sechser).

Regime Change Doesn’t Work,” Boston Review 36, no. 5 (September/October 2011): 16-22.

How Smart and Tough Are Democracies? Reassessing Theories of Democratic Victory in War,” International Security 33, no. 4 (Spring 2009): 9-51. Reprinted in Do Democracies Win Their Wars? An International Security Reader, ed. Michael E. Brown, Owen R. Coté, Sean M. Lynn-Jones, and Steven E. Miller (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2011).

Targeting Civilians in War (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2008).