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How large conflicts subside : evidence from Indonesia (English)

The last two decades have witnessed an extraordinary spate of literature on large-scale subnational conflicts. Scholars have for the most part concentrated on why violent conflicts begin. As a consequence, we know a great deal about the outbreak of civil wars and riots. Considerably less attention has been paid to how and why large conflicts subside. There is, of course, a growing literature on how civil wars end and why they recur. However, such studies have tended to conceptualize periods of civil war and peace as dichotomous states. This prevents consideration of the forms of violence that often emerge in Post-conflict situations. The so–called peaceful phase can also have a lot of violence, though such violence may fall short of a full–fledged civil war. Stated differently, temporal variation in patterns of communal violence of one kind escalation of small incidents into large scale violence, or transformation of Sparks into Fires, has been extensively studied, but how and why large-scale violence subsides space remains, on the whole, inadequately understood. As a consequence, we know little about how spatial units marked by large–scale and or extended riots move towards relative peace, and what prevents reescalation. This paper turns its gaze towards the second kind of temporal variation: how sites of large-scale violence move towards a phase of substantially lower violence. Our materials come from Indonesia, where several provinces experienced grotesque violence after the fall of President Suharto and the collapse of the New Order (1965–1997). The period of high violence lasted roughly from 1998 through 2003. Since then, violence has continued to occur but has declined in intensity and scale. Provinces caught in highly destructive violence have moved to a phase where large-scale violence is largely absent. Small-scale violence has continued to occur frequently, often taking on new forms. Furthermore, areas previously affected by high levels of violence continue to harbor specific vulnerabilities. The rest of the paper is divided into five sections. First, the authors describe the new National Violence Monitoring System (NVMS) dataset, perhaps the largest subnational dataset of its kind anywhere in the world. Following this, Section three provides a descriptive analysis of the initial post–Suharto violence. Section four presents the main features of the new phase of lower violence that has emerged since 2003. Section five explains how and why this new phase has been maintained, with a primary focus on the changing responses of security forces to incidents of violence. Section six concludes.


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    Barron,Patrick John, Jaffrey,Sana, Varshney,Ashutosh

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    Working Paper (Numbered Series)

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    East Asia and Pacific,

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    How large conflicts subside : evidence from Indonesia

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Barron,Patrick John Jaffrey,Sana Varshney,Ashutosh

How large conflicts subside : evidence from Indonesia (English). Indonesian Social Development paper,no. 18 Washington, D.C. : World Bank Group.