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Resilience Beyond Rebellion: How Wartime Organizational Structures affect Prospects for Rebel-to-Party Transformation



Sherry Zaks, CISAC, Stanford University

Date and Time

November 8, 2018 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


William J. Perry Conference Room
Encina Hall, Second Floor, Central
616 Serra Mall, Stanford, CA 94305

Abstract: Why are some rebel groups able to seamlessly transition into political parties on the heels of war while others revert to violence or die trying? Drawing on insights from organizational sociology, I argue that the answer lies in the previously unacknowledged diversity of rebel organizational structures during war. I identify three wartime domains that I call "proto-party" structures: shadow governance, political messaging, and social service wings. I demonstrate that these structures---by mirroring the key components of political party organizations---provide insurgencies with two decisive advantages when attempting to transition into a party: (1) relevant experience that translates into the political arena, and (2) an easier path to transition by repurposing existing structures rather than building a party from scratch. I test this theory using a combination of statistical analysis on a novel dataset and process tracing the FMLN's transformation in El Salvador. 

Speaker Bio: Sherry Zaks is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 2017. Next year, she’ll be joining the faculty of the University of Southern California as an Assistant Professor of Comparative Politics. Sherry’s book project and current substantive work examine the conditions under which rebel groups transition into political parties in the aftermath of civil war. Drawing on theoretical tools from organizational sociology, she models rebel-to-party transformation as a process of organizational resilience and adaptation. The dissertation on which the book project is based was recently awarded the prize for best dissertation in peace science by the United States Institute of Peace. Sherry also works on political methodology with a focus on refining tools for qualitative inference and developing rigorous standards for dataset construction and evaluation. Her work has appeared in Comparative Politics and Political Analysis.