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Cornell University Cornell Brooks Public Policy

When Soldiers Rebel

Professor Kristen Harkness will discuss her book When Soldiers Rebel: Ethnic Armies and Political Instability in Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2018). The book argues that the processes of creating and dismantling ethnically exclusionary state institutions engender organized and violent political resistance. This explains both the motivations and timing of rebellion: while exclusionary institutions and group grievances may persist over many years, it is in brief and rare intervals that entire systems of ethnic privilege and disadvantage are created or destroyed.

Focusing on African militaries and when soldiers rebel against the state on ethnic grounds, it is shown that when leaders attempt to build ethnic armies, or dismantle those created by their predecessors, they provoke violent resistance from military officers. This poses a deep challenge to democratization, which has brought new leaders to power who threaten Africa’s legacy of ethnic armies.

Please join us for this virtual conversation. Register here

About the Speaker

Dr. Kristen A. Harkness is a Senior Lecturer in the School of International Relations at the University of St. Andrews. Her research focuses on understanding how ethnicity shapes the loyalty and behavior of military institutions in Africa and has been funded by the British Academy. 


Presented by the Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies. Co-sponsored by the Institute for African Development and the Gender and Security Sector Lab.

Start Date: October 13, 2022
Start Time: 11:25 am