MAI/CSEAS presents

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Date(s) - 17/08/2017
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

N5.02, 5th Floor, Menzies Building, Monash Clayton campus


Joining the Counterinsurgency: Armed Civilian Mobilization in the Philippines

Steven Zech, Politics and International Relations, Monash University


Civilian Armed Force Geographical Units (CAGFUs) and other armed civilian groups in the Philippines serve an important auxiliary role in security provision. For decades, these community-based militias have played an active role in fighting armed revolutionary groups that challenge the state. Tens of thousands of “civilians” have taken up arms and participated in CAFGUs. Despite ties to state security forces, civilians exhibit significant agency in armed mobilization. What motivates community members to participate in CAFGUs? Existing scholarship suggests a variety of factors can influence individual participation, including: general conditions related to insecurity, economic opportunities, resources access, or permissive legal frameworks. Furthermore, factors related to individual threat perceptions, relationships with the state, emotions, and social pressures could also influence civilian participation in CAFGUs, among others. In this research, which I am conducting jointly with Joshua Eastin of Portland State University, I evaluate these explanations with new survey data, and data from personal interviews and community focus groups with CAFGU participants carried out in June and July 2017. The survey data provide descriptive statistics regarding many of factors driving civilian participation in local security institutions, while the interviews and focus groups help to identify the social processes and mechanisms. 


Dr. Steven Zech is a Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Monash University. He serves as Deputy Director for the Master of International Relations program and specializes in international relations, comparative politics, and research methodology. His general research interests include political violence and terrorism, non-state actors, human rights, social identity, and network analysis. Dr. Zech has worked as a researcher on collaborative projects related to nonviolent political change, global transnational terrorism, ethnic conflict, and militant violence in Iraq. He was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver between 2014 and 2016. In that position he conducted research for projects on “nonviolent action in violent settings.” His dissertation and current book project, “Between Two Fires: Civilian Resistance during Internal Armed Conflict,” examines the origins and evolution of civilian self-defense forces in Peru and elsewhere. He carried out extensive fieldwork in the Ayacucho and Junín regions of Peru between 2011 and 2017. Dr. Zech has published numerous academic journal articles on terrorism and political violence, counterinsurgency, torture, and network analysis. He also contributes regularly to the blog Political Violence @ a Glance.