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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Trust in civil wars : the implications of conflict character and threat on political and social trust Yaylaci, Sule


My research investigates the repercussions of protracted civil wars on bystanders’ political and social trust. The literature is fraught with inconsistent findings on how violence impacts trust. I argue that civil wars have distinct effects on trust primarily because wartime trust formations vary by the character of the conflict (ethnic vs. ideological) and the macro historical dynamics of the country, which together shape collective threat framing. Ethnic wars should induce a higher political trust for politically represented ethnic group via the state discourse’s emphasis on collective threat, even in the presence of personal threat. In ideological wars, a similar discourse on collective threat forwarded by the state is less likely, and in the absence of a higher national threat framing, personal insecurities extending from the war should diminish people’s trust in governing political institutions. Regarding social trust, ethnic violence renders in- and out-group distinctions visible and decreases out-group trust. Alternatively, ideological violence diminishes general trust (trust in unknown others). I deploy mixed-methods, combining case studies and cross-national quantitative data analysis. The two cases are the territorial Kurdish insurgency in Turkey (1984-) and the Maoist insurgency in Peru (1980-1992). I spent six months in each country and conducted archival work, comparative historical analysis, and numerous interviews and focus groups in 2013–2014. To see whether the theoretical predictions and empirical findings from Turkey and Peru can travel beyond their boundaries, I analyzed a pooled time-series cross sectional dataset (1981-2015), using multi-level models. As well as being one of the first qualitative studies of trust in conflict settings, my work is also original in distinguishing between the effects of different types of civil wars on trust, disentangling the impact of collective and personal threat, and showing that the effects vary in the society along ethnic and political lines. My empirical findings also shed light on the generation of collective threat framing using a macro historical lens, and suggest that state-building conditions both the nature of the insurgency, national and ethnic identities, and how the conflict will be framed by the state via the official discourse.

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