Title: Armed Politics and the State in Post-Colonial Asia
Name: Paul Staniland
Year: 2013, 2014
Type: Research Grant

The political relationships between governments and armed groups differ dramatically. Sometimes they are locked in intense conflict, in other contexts they cut live-and-let-live deals, and in yet others they cooperate closely or even become merged together. My ongoing book project, using fieldwork and archival research funded by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, seeks to explain how these different armed orders emerge and change. It uses detailed data from India, Pakistan, and Burma/Myanmar to establish patterns of armed order across space and time within these countries. Research in New Delhi, Kashmir, and Nagaland is complemented with extensive archival and secondary source research to systematically measure peace deals, ceasefires, combat operations, and informal cooperative. These allow me to identify armed orders of alliance, limited cooperation, and military hostilities, as well as the collapse or incorporation of groups.

I argue theoretically that the threat perceptions of central governments are deeply conditioned by their ideological projects: the definitions and boundaries of the nation and the role of the state within it that key elites seek to construct and defend. Ideas about politics help leaders and their security services decide which armed groups are deeply threatening, which are politically unproblematic, and which are unsavory or tolerable. These political foundations of state and regime form the basis of state strategy, but tactical calculations and the agency of the armed groups themselves help explain more fine-grained patterns of armed order. This argument helps us understand why governments often devote massive repression toward groups that are militarily weak or disorganized, while cooperating or ignoring much more powerful groups. These complex interactions between states and armed actors create diverse forms of political order in the contemporary world.