Ana M. Arjona


Rebelocracy: Social Order in the Colombian Civil War. Cambridge University Press (Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics), 2016.

Recipient of the Conflict Research Society's Book of the Year Award, 2018.

"Judges on the prize committee described Rebelocracy as a "truly innovative and a unique study." They praised the way this study "shed light on another under-explored area that of social order during civil wars, non-state actor governance, and the dynamics of combatant-civilian interaction." Judges highlighted the "meticulous" approach "in terms of the question it asks, the theroetical innovation, and the methods used." Pointing to the "theoretical contribution and substantial potential to influence practice," the judges agreed this book is a deserved winner for its outstanding scholarship."

Reviewed in Perspectives on Politics, The Journal of Politics, Latin American Politics and Society, The London School of Economics Review of Books, The Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and Latin American Research Review.

Included in Muse's list of The 100 Greatest Latin American History & Politics Books.

Introductory chapter (PDF)

Online appendix (PDF)

Rebelocracy Conventional wisdom portrays war zones as chaotic and anarchic. In reality, however, they are often orderly. This book introduces a new phenomenon in the study of civil war: wartime social order. It investigates theoretically and empirically how new forms of order emerge and function in conflict zones. By theorizing the interaction between combatants and civilians and how they impact wartime institutions, the study delves into rebel behavior, civilian agency, and their impact on the conduct of war. Based on years of fieldwork in Colombia, the theory is tested with qualitative and quantitative evidence on communities, armed groups, and individuals in conflict zones. The study shows how armed groups strive to rule civilians, and how the latter influence the terms of that rule. The theory and empirical results illuminate our understanding of civil war, institutions, local governance, nonviolent resistance, and the emergence of political order.


In this brilliant and deeply researched study of Colombia —during a civil war, no less!— Ana Arjona expands and deepens our understandings of rebel groups' varied interactions with civilian communities in the course of insurgency. Her arguments transcend the binaries of "no support" from civilians versus the rebels' winning their "hearts and minds." She carefully distinguishes and explains greater ("rebelocracy") or more minimal ("aliocracy") achievements of rebel governance, but also the failures to do so, or "disorder." In attending also to civilian institutions and responses, Arjona proves that rebel-initiated actions do not alone dictate those outcomes. She has developed richly her own sources of quantitative data, analyzed with statistical sophistication; yet her other, qualitative muse animates a beautifully crafted, narrative study of a counterfactual example, a kind of "natural experiment." In opening new pathways for future rebel-governance studies, Arjona has also gifted us with an epitome of the scholar's craft.

Timothy Wickham-Crowley, Georgetown University

How does social order emerge in and out of violent conflict? Ana Arjona's brilliant book uses diverse and innovative research strategies to demonstrate how both combatants and civilians negotiate forms of political order and wartime institutions. This is a major and necessary contribution to our understanding of civil war, conflict, institutional development, the state, and governance.

Anna Grzymala-Busse, Stanford University

Even during violent civil wars, armed groups and civilians often establish and maintain some form of an unwritten "social contract." Presently, scholars know little about how these social contracts are formed and what produces variation in their type and extensiveness. Ana Arjona's research presents a huge advance in our knowledge of these rebel-civilian political dynamics. Based on an interweaving of surveys and in-depth case studies of dozens of Colombian communities, Arjona convincingly argues that two factors—the quality of pre-war local institutions and the time horizons of the rebels—can explain how and when rebels develop comprehensive local governance ("rebelocracy"), settle on lesser forms of control ("aliocracy"), or fail to form any type of social contract (disorder). Arjona's work addresses fundamental issues of power and order and will be of interest not only to students of civil war, but social scientists more broadly.

Roger Petersen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Rebel governance in civil war. Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Rebel Governance With Nelson Kasfir (Dartmouth) and Zachariah Mampilly (Vassar). This is the first book to examine and compare how rebels govern civilians during civil wars in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Drawing from a variety of disciplinary traditions, including political science, sociology, and anthropology, the book provides in-depth case studies of specific conflicts as well as comparative studies of multiple conflicts. Among other themes, the book examines why and how some rebels establish both structures and practices of rule, the role of ideology, cultural, and material factors affecting rebel governance strategies, the impact of governance on the rebel/civilian relationship, civilian responses to rebel rule, the comparison between modes of state and non-state governance to rebel attempts to establish political order, the political economy of rebel governance, and the decline and demise of rebel governance attempts.

Praise for Rebel Governance in Civil War

This imaginative, diverse, and highly readable book, with chapters grounded in particular cases, guides attention to civilians living under varied conditions of rebel rule. While the problem of effective governance by weak states has consumed the attention of policy makers for several decades, those governed by rebels merit equal public concern. The intriguing essays in this volume do just that, constituting a book that teaches us when and how insurgent organizations seek to govern.

David D. Laitin, James T. Watkins IV and Elise V. Watkins Professor of Political Science, Stanford University, California

How do rebels interact with non-combatants in regions under rebel control? Why does rebel governance vary across time and space? This bold and insightful collection addresses these questions through an interdisciplinary lens that enables us to see beyond the state-rebel dyad and into the lives of ordinary people in wartime. Challenging common wisdoms with evidence from original fieldwork, this is an enlightening effort that deserves a broad audience.

Nancy Bermeo, Nuffield Professor of Comparative Politics, Nuffield College, Oxford

If rebels want to learn how to govern, or scholars and policy makers to appreciate the various ways in which rebels have tried to orchestrate and win civil wars, this is the key book.

Robert I. Rotberg, Harvard University, Massachusetts and author of When States Fail and On Governance

Rebel Governance in Civil War is a captivating book. It makes significant theoretical advances, and it includes fascinating case studies written by some of the leading authors in the field. It will be of great interest to scholars of civil wars, as well as to area-study experts.

Severine Autesserre, Barnard College, Columbia University

Reviewed in Civil Wars by Jonathan Fisher (University of Birmingham) and in Perspectives on Politics by Adrian Florea (University of Glasgow).

Articles and book chapters:

"The Long-Term Economic Legacies of Rebel Rule in Civil War: Micro Evidence from Colombia," Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming, (with with Ana Maria Ibañez, Julian Arteaga, Juan Camilo Cardenas and Patricia Justino).

"Violence and Voting in the U.S.: How School Shootings Impact Elections." American Political Science Review (with Laura García and Matthew Lacombe), (2022).

"War-to-peace transitions and the behavioral legacies of civil war: A plea for looking beyond violence." International Journal of Drug Policy, (2021).

"The Qualitative Transparency Deliberations: Insights and Implications" Perspectives on Politics (with Alan Jacobs et al.) (2021).

"Subnational Units, the Locus of Choice, and Theory Building: The Case of Civilian Agency in Civil War." In Agustina Giraudy, Eudardo Moncada and Richard Snyder (Eds), Inside Countries: Subnational Research in Comparative Politics, Cambridge University Press (2019).

"Civilian Cooperation and Non-Cooperation with Non-State Armed Groups: The Centrality of Obedience and Resistance." Small Wars & Insurgencies, Vol 28 (4) (2017).

"Institutions, Civilian Resistance and Wartime Social Order: A process-driven natural experiment in the Colombian Civil War." Latin American Politics and Society, Vol. 58 (3), pp. 99-122 (2016).

"Conflict, violence and democracy in Latin America." Introduction to the first bilingual issue of Political y Gobierno , Vol. XXIII (1) (with Luis de la Calle) (2016).

"Wartime Institutions: A Research Agenda." Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 58(8) (2014).

"Civilian Resistance to Rebel Governance." In Ana Arjona, Nelson Kasfir and Zachariah Mampilly, Rebel Governance in Civil War (Cambridge University Press). Earlier version: HiCN Working Paper 170 (2015).

"One National War, Multiple Local Orders: An Inquiry into the Unit of Analysis of War and Post-war Interventions." In M. Bergsmo and P. Kalmanovitz (Eds), Law in Peace Negotiations. Oslo: Torkel Opsahl Academic Publisher (2009).

"Armed Groups' Governance in Civil War: A Synthesis." Literature review commissioned by the Program on States and Security (2009).

"Local Orders in Warring Times: Armed Groups' and Civilians' Strategies in Civil War." Qualitative Methods. Spring (2008).

"Recruitment into Armed Groups in Colombia: A Survey of Demobilized Fighters." In Yvan Guichaoua (ed.), Understanding Collective Political Violence. Palgrave-Macmillan. With Stathis Kalyvas (2011).

"Armed Groups, Communities, and Local Orders: An Inter-relational Approach." In Towards Rebuilding the Country: Development, Politics, and Territory in Regions Affected by the Armed Conflict. Edited by Fernan Gonzalez. Bogota, CINEP-ODECOFI (2009).

A Micro-level Approach to the Armed Conflict in Colombia: Results of a Survey with Demobilized Fighters of Guerrilla and Paramilitary Groups." In Freddy Cante (Ed.), Argumentation, Negotiation, and Agreements. Bogota: El Rosario University. With Stathis Kalyvas. 2008.

Working papers:

The Effects of Violence on Inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean: A Research Agenda, Background Paper for the UNDP LAC Regional Human Development Report 2021.

"Civilian Agency and Non-State Armed Groups"

"State Capacity and the Prevention of Rebel and Criminal Governance: The Centrality of Dispute Resolution Institutions"

"The violent bias in civil war studies"

"An institutionalist approach to recruitment in civil war: Evidence on Colombia and Kosovo"

"The Legacies of Wartime Institutions on Citizens' Preferences for the Rule of Law" (With Juan Camilo Cárdenas, Ana María Ibanez and Patricia Justino)

"Migration and Violence: How Do Legacies of War Shape Migration Decisions?" (With Juan Camilo Cárdenas, Ana María Ibanez and Patricia Justino)

"Inequality, Local Collective Action and Armed Conflict in Colombia" (With Juan Camilo Cárdenas, Ana María Ibanez and Patricia Justino)

"Network Efficacy and Trust under Rebelocracy" (With Juan Camilo Cárdenas, Ana María Ibanez and Patricia Justino)

"The impact of killings of politicians on political participation: Evidence from Colombia" (with Mario Chacon and Laura García)

"Process-driven natural experiments" (with Silvia Otero)

"Judicial institutions: The tool for aspiring rulers" (with Deborah Boucoyannis)

Other publications and opinion pieces:

"The effects of violence on inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean: A research agenda (Los efectos de la violencia sobre la desigualdad en América Latina y El Caribe: Una agenda de investigación). Foco Económico (2022).

"Criminal, rebel and militia governance in Latin Amerca: A social, political and economic problem that requires more attention." (La gobernanza criminal, rebelde y miliciana en América Latina: Un problema social, político y económico que requiere mayor atención). Foco Económico (2021).

"The development of socioemotional skills in children and adolescents: An urgent priority for the education system during the pandemic." (El desarrollo de las habilidades socioemocionales en ni&‌ntildeos, ni&‌ntildeas y adolescentes: Una prioridad inaplazable del sistema educativo en la pandemia. Foco Económico (2020).

"A plea for a long-term drug policy." (Por una política de drogas de largo plazo).” Op-Ed, El Espectador (2018).

“The impact of political assassinations on local democracy and governance in Colombia" (El impacto de los asesinatos de políticos en la democracia y en los gobiernos locales en Colombia). Foco Económico (2018).

"The War on Drugs: A Time Bomb for Latin America." Foco Economico (2017).

"War Dynamics and the NO Vote in the Colombian Referendum." Political Violence @ A Glance (2016).

"¿Cuántos muertos estaríamos dispuestos a aceptar para buscar un acuerdo mejor?"> OpEd, El Espectador and Foco Economico (2016).

"Colombia's rampant racism deserves a national spotlight and international awareness." Guest Post, Latina Lista (2015).

"Why We Need to Expose Children to the Troubles of the World." OpEd, Takepart (2015).

"Report of a survey with demobilized fighters" (with Stathis Kalyvas)

"Por una pedagogÍa del conflicto en el proceso de paz en Colombia", Foco Economico (2013).

"Los efectos de la guerra sobre la calidad de los gobernantes", Foco Economico (2011)

"De Rebelocracias y Reclutas: Instituciones y Participación en el Conflicto Armado Colombiano", Foco Economico (2011).

"Presencia vs. Violencia: problemas de medición de la presencia de actores armados", Foco Economico (2011).