Stephanie Dornschneider-Elkink

Stephanie Dornschneider-Elkink and Nick Henderson (2023). Repression and dissent: How tit-for-tat leads to violent and nonviolent resistance. Journal of Conflict Resolution. Online first. [article] [replication materials]

Much research examines the state-dissident nexus by large-n studies and rational choice theories. This article contributes an analysis of dissident reasoning through a computational evaluation of ethnographic interviews. The analysis shows that dissident decision-making is based on tit-for-tat deliberations: Dissidents choose violent means primarily in response to violent repression, and nonviolent means in response to nonviolent repression. Ordinary citizens not participating in dissent consider positive state behavior or safety concerns instead. Consistent with arguments that state-dissident interactions are reciprocal, these findings reveal unexpected cognitive similarities between political dissent and cooperation, which is often associated with tit-for-tat deliberations. They also show the importance of state repression compared with other motivators of dissent, including perceived relative deprivation and social contagion. The findings identify heuristic patterns of reasoning which suggest that dissidents may be more open to change and, ultimately, cooperation with state authorities than what is argued by repressive states.

Stephanie Dornschneider (2023). Exit, voice, loyalty... or deliberate obstruction? Non-collective everyday resistance under oppression. Perspectives on Politics. 21(1), 126-141. [article]

In highly oppressive environments, collective resistance is very costly. Non-collective resistance constitutes a less risky alternative. Focusing on a particular oppressed setting, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, this article identifies everyday forms of non-collective resistance: signaling, persevering, eschewing, and coping. Characterized by low visibility and targeting political goals indirectly, these activities have not yet been recognized as forms of resistance. However, they constitute important resistance efforts that deliberately obstruct oppressive regimes. These efforts show that individuals who are not visibly resisting their rulers cannot be assumed to be loyal or to suffer from a barrier of fear, as often suggested by theories in politics. They also offer an important addition to theories that identify violence as a common response to oppression, suggesting that peaceful non-collective activities constitute an everyday alternative.

Stephanie Dornschneider-Elkink and Bruce Edmonds (2022). Does non-violent repression have stronger dampening effects than state violence? Insight from an emotion-based model of non-violent dissent. Government and Opposition. [article]

The effects of repression on dissent are debated widely. We contribute to the debate by developing an agent-based model grounded in ethnographic interviews with dissidents. Building on new psychology research, the model integrates emotions as a dynamic context of dissent. The model moreover differentiates between four repression types: violence, street blockages, curfews and Facebook cuts. The simulations identify short-term dampening effects of each repression type, with a maximum effect related to non-violent forms of repression. The simulations also show long-term spurring effects, which are most strongly associated with state violence. In addition, the simulations identify nonlinear short-term spurring effects of state violence on early stage dissent. Such effects are not observed for the remaining repressive measures. Contrasting with arguments that violence deters dissent, this suggests that violence may fuel dissent, while non-violent repression might suppress it.

Jennifer Todd, Sarah Curristan and Stephanie Dornschneider-Elkink (2022). How moderates make boundaries after protracted conflict. Everyday universalists, agonists, transformists and cosmopolitans in contemporary Northern Ireland. British Journal of Sociology, 73(4), 885-902. [article]

This article explores how boundary making proceeds after protracted conflict has ended.Drawing on an interview and focus group study in two local areas in Northern Ireland, weidentify the diverse forms of everyday boundary work amongst moderates who distance fromthe ethno-political blocs: everyday universalism, agonism, transformation andcosmopolitanism. Each overcomes closed exclusivist boundaries and identity oppositions,thus providing a clear contrast with the overt political contention and polarization that hasfollowed Brexit in Northern Ireland. Our research shows the internal shape and diversity ofthe moderate constituency who support peace-building and a less-polarized politics. It als offers an answer to the question how such everyday openness coexists with continued political polarization. We trace the different political perspectives associated with each form of boundary making and argue that this hinders political cohesion amongst moderates.

Stephanie Dornschneider (2021). Analyzing ethnographic interviews: Three studies on terrorism and nonviolent resistance. International Political Science Review, 42(2),149–163. [article]

This article describes three analyses of ethnographic interviews conducted with violent and nonviolent political activists. The findings show that the deliberations of violent and nonviolent activists focus on state violence and rational choice calculations (Studies I and II), while nonviolent activists moreover consider other factors, including state negligence and self-sacrifice (Study II), and choose individual over collective resistance in a highly repressive setting (Study III). By revealing how violent and nonviolent activists reason about their behavior, the findings complement statistical analyses of datasets on external factors, such as economic conditions, political institutions, social networks, or political events. Such datasets are typically readily available or can be constructed from publicly available data, while interview transcripts are more time consuming to assemble. Furthermore, replicable quantitative methods are not straightforwardly applied to qualitative interviews. This article instead applies Spradley’s ethnographic analysis (Study I) and Corbin’s and Strauss’s grounded theory (Studies II and III) to examine interview transcripts. Besides the substantive findings, the analyses make a methodological contribution to qualitative studies of interviews by systematically identifying each factor addressed by an interview.

Stephanie Dornschneider and Bruce Edmonds (2021). Building a bridge from qualitative analysis to a simulation of the Arab Spring protests. In: Petra Ahrweiler and Martin Neumann (eds.). Advances in Social Simulation. Proceedings of the 15th Social Simulation Conference: 23–27 September 2019. Springer Nature. [paper]

This paper builds a ‘bridge’ between a qualitative analysis and the design of an agent-based simulation by applying the CSNE framework, which distinguishes between context, scope and narrative elements. Qualitative data were constructed from ethnographic interviews on the Arab Spring in Egypt and Morocco. To identify narrative elements, the data were analysed by coding procedures from grounded theory and a computational analysis. Through a series of conversations and structured questions, the scope and context, which were largely implicit in the data, were specified, and a simulation was produced in a process akin to ‘rapid prototyping’. The aim was to produce the design for a simulation that included the key elements and behaviours identified from the qualitative data and as few other elements as possible. This paper describes this process, the CSNE framework, as well as the simulation that resulted. The lessons learned for such an exercise are reported.

Stephanie Dornschneider and Jennifer Todd (2021). Everyday sentiment among unionists and nationalists in a Northern Irish town. Irish Political Studies, 36(2), 185-213. [article]

Unionists and nationalists remain polarized in their political choices, increasingly so since Brexit. Does this signal increasing and dangerous division? Or have the decades of peace and agreed institutions changed the tenor of discussion in Northern Ireland? In this article, we examine the ways community relations, political division and contention are discussed by focusing on the expression of everyday sentiment among unionists and nationalists in a mixed Northern Irish town. Theoretically, it has been argued that positive sentiment raises hopes for compromise and leaves room for discussion, while negative sentiment closes off deliberation and compromise. Based on interviews, we first conduct a sentiment analysis that identifies positive versus negative sentiment expressed by the respondents, focusing on themes addressing Irish unity, unionism, Brexit, as well as personal and community life. The analysis shows that, on average, interviewees talk more positively than negatively about each theme. We then conduct a qualitative discourse analysis to investigate how positive and negative sentiment are expressed by unionist and nationalist respondents. We find that respondents name and elaborate on the political issues in contention while lowering the emotional valence of discussion. This suggests much more room for deliberation and compromise than is usually assumed.

Stephanie Dornschneider (2019). High‐stakes decision‐making within complex social environments: A computational model of belief systems in the Arab Spring. Cognitive Science, 43(7), e12762. [article] [PDF] [data]

People experiencing similar conditions may make different decisions, and their belief systems provide insight about these differences. An example of high‐stakes decision‐making within a complex social context is the Arab Spring, in which large numbers of people decided to protest and even larger numbers decided to stay at home. This study uses qualitative analyses of interview narratives and social media addressing individual decisions to develop a computational model tracing the cognitive decision‐making process. The model builds on work by Abelson and Carroll (1965), Schank and Abelson (1977), and Axelrod (1976) to systematically trace the inferences connecting beliefs to decisions. The findings show that protest decisions were often based on positive emotions such as pride, hope, courage, and solidarity, triggered by beliefs about successful protest and self‐sacrifice. By contrast, decisions to stay at home were triggered by beliefs about safety, state approval, and living conditions. As one participant said, “When I heard about the revolution in Tunisia, my heart was filled with solidarity for the people.” In the words of a non‐participant: “When people are killed, we must be careful. There are more important things than protest: safety and stability.” This study of individual explanations about events identifies the role of emotions in high‐stakes decision‐making within complex social environments.

Stephanie Dornschneider and Nick Henderson (2016). A computational model of cognitive maps: Analyzing violent and nonviolent activity in Egypt and Germany. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 60(2), 368-399. [article] [replication materials]

Why do some individuals pick up arms as opposed to others who live under the same conditions? Environmental and group theories fail to differentiate between these individuals. In response, we apply the cognitive mapping approach and model violence as decisions based on chains of beliefs about various types of factors, including state aggression, access to violent groups, religion, and personal characteristics. Based on a double-paired comparison, data are constructed from ethnographic interviews with Muslim and non-Muslim individuals engaging in violent and nonviolent activity in authoritarian and democratic states—Egypt and Germany. The analysis develops a computational model formalizing the cognitive maps into Bayesian networks. In 477,604 runs, the model (1) identifies the beliefs connected to decisions, (2) traces inference chains antecedent to decisions, and (3) explores counterfactuals. This suggests that both violent and nonviolent activities are responses to state aggression, and not to Islam, group access, or personal characteristics.

Stephanie Dornschneider (2010). Belief systems and action inferences as a source of violence in the name of Islam. Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict, 3(3), 223-247. [article]

I draw on the belief system literature and use a cognitive mapping methodology to compare Islamists from the nonviolent Muslim Brotherhood and from the formerly violent groups al-Jihad and al-Jama'a al-Islamiyya in Egypt. Using data from in-depth interviews conducted in Egypt, I identify seven combinations of beliefs antecedent to decisions for and against violence and make three main claims. First, decisions for or against violence towards the state are only made if an individual believes that the state is violent. Second, decisions against violence are logically preceded by beliefs about the superiority of state structures to the chaos of violence, the negative consequences of revenge, the potential success of peaceful action, and the impossibility of reaching goals through violence. Third, decisions in favor of violence are logically preceded by beliefs about transformatory goals, support for violence in the local environment, and ignorance of the state's reaction to violent resistance. I conclude with brief suggestions of how the kinds of belief-chains identified may be useful for understanding and responding to narratives supporting violence in the name of Islam.