The Radicalization of Insurgents in Civil Wars: Exploring the Microfoundations of Civilian Targeting
University of Montreal, CA
Marc-Olivier Cantin is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Montreal. His research focuses on radicalization processes and the perpetration of violence against civilians during civil wars. He is a member of the Canada Research Chair in Political Violence.
Although the civil war literature is replete with theories purporting to explain why rebel groups target civilians, we still have a limited understanding of the motives, experiences, and trajectories of those who actually enact such violence on the ground – that is, rank-and-file combatants. Responding to this gap, this article aggregates findings from a broad range of literatures and delineates a variety of mechanisms that may motivate individual participation in civilian targeting. It thus highlights how a microfoundational approach focused on the radicalization trajectories of low-ranking combatants can help to recast and enhance our understanding of wartime violence against civilians.