Forces of Destruction and Construction : Local Conflict Dynamics, Institutional Trust and Postwar Crime

Abstract: In 2017 alone, an estimated 68,851 people lost their lives as a consequence of civil wars, that is, armed conflicts that take place within the borders of a state. Such violent conflicts not only lead to immense human suffering, but also leave social, economic and political imprints on the societies that experience them. This dissertation contributes to a burgeoning literature that seeks to understand these imprints by studying how local conflict dynamics affect two specific outcomes: institutional trust and postwar crime. It comprises four independent essays that pose separate research questions, but taken together make important contributions to our understanding of how subnational particularities related to conflict intensity, armed actors and the type of violence employed determine whether, how and why civil wars affect the outcomes of interest. Essay I finds that a large-scale insurgent attack on civilians led to an immediate increase in individual-level trust in state institutions in Kabul City. Essay II finds that conflict intensity at the local level in Afghanistan has a negative impact on individual-level perceptions of one specific state institution: the police. Essay III finds that the more an area in Northern Ireland was affected by wartime violence, the more crime it displayed in the postwar context, but that this effect is contingent on the actor perpetrating violence. Finally, Essay IV shows how conflict dynamics in a former insurgent stronghold of Northern Ireland (West Belfast) changed the style of policing at the local level, as well as the consequences this had for the police’s ability to enforce law and order in the postwar context. These findings speak to an emerging research agenda that studies the conditions under which civil wars function either as forces of destruction or as catalysts for societal development, and offer three larger conclusions: conflict dynamics shape the relationship between local populations and the state far into the postwar period; institutional consequences of armed conflict can translate into postwar challenges, such as crime; and conflict dynamics affect perceptions of state institutions in a quite similar manner across rather different contexts, in this case, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland.