Civil war and political violence have long been considered the domain of reckless leaders and rogue states. By examining how local environmental and socioeconomic factors shape violence within the state, Ore Koren’s research shifts the focus to the neglected, yet crucial role of fighters, perpetrators, and even innocent civilians.
A PhD candidate in political science at the University of Minnesota, Koren was selected as a 2016-2017 Jennings Randolph Peace Scholar by the United States Institute of Peace. The scholarship supports his dissertation research, which involves a detailed examination of the relationships between aspects of food security and conflict, as part of an effort to develop detailed tools to aid both researchers and policymakers concerned with peace-building. This focus requires the ability to view these issues not only through the lens of a political scientist, but also an applied economist. To that end, Koren received an MS in Applied Economics from the University of Minnesota in June 2016.
Through the empirical study of localized environmental, economic, and political factors, Koren’s work provides new and more nuanced explanations for political violence. For instance, in a coauthored study (with Professor Anoop Sarbahi), the authors use nighttime light satellite imagery to measure local state presence and explore how local political power impacts civil war (conditional acceptance, International Studies Quarterly). In other published or forthcoming papers, Koren’s work expands the field’s understanding of the ways in which food security concerns affect perpetrators’ shifting motivations to use violence. Some projects investigate the effects of drought on atrocities against civilians (forthcoming, Journal of Politics), and how access to local food resources impacts war (Food Security, 2016) and civilian killings (forthcoming, Journal of Peace Research).
Currently, Koren is working on two book projects (co-authored with Professor Bumba Mukherjee of Penn State University), which develop and test original theoretical frameworks about political violence. The first book, The Politics of Mass Killing in Autocratic Regimes (under contract at Palgrave Macmillan), examines when food shortages cause mass killing in authoritarian states. It shows that urbanization plays a crucial role in allowing the civilians to stage large protests, so that mass killing is used to preempt these protests from becoming a sustained opposition campaign. The second book, Paramilitaries, Militias, and Political Demobilization after Civil War (under contract at Oxford University Press), studies peace-building and conflict renewal after civil war by focusing on paramilitaries and militias. It explains the choices made by these groups – to disarm and join the political process, continue their criminal activities, or actively attack the state – and shows that these choices have a crucial impact on the success of peace-building processes.
This current focus was stimulated by a longstanding academic interest in the relational dynamics and resource-related factors that shape civil war and genocide. In the past, Koren has studied how military forces (Terrorism & Political Violence, 2014) and pro-government militias (forthcoming, Conflict Management and Peace Science) impact mass killing in civil war and civil disobedience campaigns.
Concurrently with developing this research agenda, Koren keeps policy implications at the forefront. His work has been published on the Monkey Cage political blog of the Washington Post. He also serves as a guest contributor for the prominent Political Violence @ A Glance blog.