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Power, Networks, and Violent Conflict: A Comparison of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan

On September 18, 2013, Professor İdil Tunçer Kilavuz gave a colloquium presentation entitled “Power, Networks, and Violent Conflict:  A Comparison of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan” as part of the Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis.  Professor Kilavuz is an Assistant Professor of Comparative Politics in the Department of Political Science in Istanbul Medeniyet University and received her PhD from Indiana University in 2007.  From July to September of this year she held a Visiting Scholars position at the Ostrom Workshop where she worked on completing her book, Power Perceptions, Networks and Violent Conflict: A Comparison of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and worked on another comparative project on why some civil war negotiations are successful and others are not.  Her concluding colloquium presentation outlined her process-tracing paired comparison analysis of civil war formations in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, trying to outline the key factors that explain why Tajikistan experienced a civil war while the very similar country of Uzbekistan did not. 

After reviewing the different factors that different political scientists have posited are the underlying causes of civil unrest, Professor Kilavuz emphasized the need for scholars to identify structural, process-related, and network-related factors.  Too often scholars focus either agents or structures to explain social developments, but both of these approaches fail to differentiate why Tajikistan and not Uzbekistan had a civil war during the post-Soviet transition. Instead, she focused on the power perceptions of leaders in both countries, their interest in networking and negotiating with political rivals, and the structural factors from both the Soviet legacy and the Socialist collapse. Only through a combined analysis of these factors, she argued, could we understand how two such different conflicts arose in two seemingly similar nations.  This conclusion encouraged some lively discussion from faculty and advanced students in a variety of departments, as well as a discussion of the challenges of turning a dissertation into a book. In the future, Professor Kilavuz plans to turn her research on civil wars towards a focus on their duration and successful ending, again using a comparative approach.