Ordinary People, Extraordinary Risks: Participation in an Ethnic Rebellion

American Political Science Review, 110.2 (May 2016): 247-264

69 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2015 Last revised: 22 Dec 2016

Date Written: July 17, 2015


Why do ordinary people take extraordinary risks and join an ethnic armed rebellion? This article tests a series of well-established hypotheses about selfish and identity based motivations and a new hypothesis based on prospect theory. It then employs a unique multi-method research strategy combining one of the most comprehensive datasets on insurgent recruitment that contains biographical information about 8,266 Kurdish militants with extensive fieldwork involving in-depth interviews with relatives of the militants to test these hypotheses. The findings show the decision to rebel is as much political as economic and social. While security concerns and expectations of benefits affect in the decision to rebel, social commitments, identities radicalized by state repression, and collective threat perceptions among efficacious individuals generated by political mobilization, rather than preexisting ethnic cleavages, also lead to participation in an ethnic insurgency. The latter findings explain the durability of insurgencies with limited economic resources and their ability to attract educated fighters.

Keywords: Civil War, Ethnicity, Social Identity, Prospect Theory, Recruitment, Political Violence, Kurds, Turkey

Suggested Citation

Tezcur, Gunes Murat, Ordinary People, Extraordinary Risks: Participation in an Ethnic Rebellion (July 17, 2015). American Political Science Review, 110.2 (May 2016): 247-264. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2633812

Gunes Murat Tezcur (Contact Author)

University of Central Florida ( email )

4297 Andromeda Loop N
Howard Phillips Hall, 302
Orlando, FL 32816
United States

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