Contentious politics in civil wars

Raise Your Voices! The Occurrence of Nonviolent Campaigns in Civil Wars

funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (volume: EUR 310.000,00)

Civilians are influential, often pivotal, actors in civil wars. They are not only passive or victims of violence, but rather use the public to raise their voices. Paradoxically, civilians voice their interests often in an organized and nonviolent way. Such nonviolent campaigns address both the government and the rebel group(s) in civil wars, as shown by examples from different violent intra-state conflicts.

The project makes the following contributions: (1) The project aims to contribute to the growing research on nonviolent campaigns by widening the theoretical perspective to nonviolent campaigns in the context of civil wars, to the occurrence of campaigns and to campaigns below the threshold of 1,000 participants. (2) By collecting geo-referenced data, the project aims to account for spatial variations within civil wars and nonviolent campaigns. (3) The project findings could be relevant for policy advice. Nonviolent campaigns are signals showing the willingness of civilians to take responsibility for their own future and they increase the likelihood of future activism. Thus, former campaign activists will very likely take responsibility for local developments in the post-conflict period. Communities that have experienced nonviolent activism therefore should be promising settings for development projects in the post-conflict period.

The project will use quantitative and qualitative methods on different levels of analysis to study the proposed mechanisms empirically. We will conduct in-depth studies of two civil war cases to identify civilian nonviolent activism in civil wars.


2021. Vüllers, Johannes. Revolutionary Actions and Constitutional Crisis. Oxford Research Encyclopedia.

2020. González, Belén & Johannes Vüllers. The Value of Sub-National Data: The Dynamics of Contentious Politics in Nepal.International Area Studies Review 23: 3, 307-322.

2020. Vüllers, Johannes & Roman Krtsch. Raise Your Voices! Civilian Protest in Civil Wars. Political Geography 80.

2019. Vüllers, Johannes & Elisa Schwarz. The Power of Words: State Reactions to Protest Announcements. Comparative Political Studies 52: 3, 347-381.

2019. Krtsch, Roman & Johannes Vüllers. Unintended Consequences of Post-conflict Power-Sharing: Explaining Civilian Activism. Zeitschrift für Friedens- und Konfliktforschung 8: 2, 239-260.

2019. Haer, Roos, Johannes Vüllers & Nils B. Weidmann (Hrsg.). Studying Microdynamics in Civil Wars. Special Issue in Zeitschrift für Friedens- und Konfliktforschung 8: 2.