Asst. Prof. Paul Staniland honored for book Networks of Rebellion

Georgetown University’s Mortara Center for International Studies has honored Asst. Prof. Paul Staniland for his book, Networks of Rebellion: Explaining Insurgent Cohesion and Collapse.

Staniland received the 2014 Lepgold Book Prize, awarded to researchers providing an exceptional contribution to the study of international relations with an emphasis on critical current policy challenges. It honors the late Joseph S. Lepgold, a Georgetown government professor.


Networks of Rebellion explains the origins, change and breakdown of insurgent groups and their organizational patterns, as well as the resulting policy implications. As the importance of insurgent groups as political actors increases, it has become crucial for policymakers to understand the effects of insurgent groups’ organizational cohesion on patterns of violence, civil war and the potential for counterinsurgency.

“The No. 1 point I hope readers take away is that relying on sweeping statements about what kinds of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism doctrines and strategies ‘work’ is not a smart way to make policy,” said Staniland, AB’04, assistant professor in political science, co-director of UChicago’s Program on International Security Policy and co-founder of the Program on Political Violence.


“Insurgents, whether as our enemies, as in Afghanistan, or our allies, as in Syria, are smart, savvy and committed actors who have their own resources and constraints that need to be carefully factored into U.S. policies when operating abroad,” said Staniland. “They need to be taken seriously in their own right, not treated as secondary or easily malleable to American power.”

The research for his prizewinning book grew out of his dissertation in security studies on the initial organization of rebel groups: “Explaining Cohesion, Fragmentation and Control in Insurgent Groups.” After 10 years of research and writing, Networks of Rebellion was published.

“I realized around 2006 or so that despite a growing spate of research on counterinsurgency and civil war, both scholars and analysts were paying far too little attention to the inner workings of insurgent groups. Too much attention was being paid to either government—often U.S.—policies or to huge categories of identity—Islamist, ethnic, etc.—that did not map very easily onto actual patterns of insurgent organization and behavior,” said Staniland. “One contribution of the book is to offer a new way of describing and analyzing insurgent groups to address this limitation.”