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Politics after Autonomy: Repression, Rebellion, and Revision

More states than ever before are yielding political authority to subnational polities, transforming the fundamental architecture of governance. A major force behind this revolution is the perception that regional self-governance offers a vehicle for democracy and peace in divided societies. Yet, transitions to self-rule have proven remarkably deadly, and autonomous regions have been a focal point for state-sponsored civilian massacres. My dissertation research investigates the politics of mass civilian killing in the context of territorial self-rule. I argue that central government elites employ mass civilian killing as a strategy of regional consolidation to reassert political monopoly in autonomous territories.


My empirical investigation adopts a two-pronged approach, leveraging both quantitative and qualitative methods for evidentiary rigor. In the quantitative stage of the analysis, I use original data and a new quasi-experimental statistical method to test for the causal effect of regional autonomy on the incidence of state-led civilian killing globally from 1989-2017. 

Related Articles
  • "From Self-Rule to Slaughter: How Territorial Autonomy Incites State-Led Mass Killing." Working paper.

  • "Eroding Autonomy: Armed Conflict and Domestic Territorial Revision." Working paper.

  • "Triggers of State-Led Mass Killing." With Ernesto Verdeja. Working paper.

Politics of Environmental Displacement

This project investigates the political causes and consequences of environmental displacement. As part of this project, I constructed the Natural Hazards and Internal Displacement dataset, an original dataset that identifies dislocations caused by floods, storms, wildfires, earthquakes, landslides, and volcanic activity in Africa from 1989-2017. The dataset is currently being expanded to include Latin America and the Caribbean.


Substantively, this project takes two directions. First, it examines why countries exhibit such high variation in environmental displacement in the aftermath of sudden-onset natural hazards with an emphasis on national political institutions. A second set of questions addresses the relationship between environmental displacement and political violence.


Chesler, A. "Environmental Displacement and Political Instability: Evidence from Africa." Under review.

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