Program for the Prevention of Mass Violence

We seek to understand the causes, kinds, and consequences of mass violence among identity groups—religious, racial, nationalistic, and ethnic—towards the goal of preventing its outbreak or at least mitigating its negative effects. 

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Program Directors

Karina Korostelina
Professor of Conflict Analysis and Resolution
School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution

Daniel Rothbart 
Director of the Sudan Task Group
Professor of Conflict Analysis and Resolution
School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution

Program Affiliates

Daniel E. Agbiboa

Daniel E. Agbiboa comes to Mason from the University of Pennsylvania where he was a Perry World House Postdoctoral Fellow. He holds degrees from Oxford University (Ph.D.), Cambridge University (M.Phil.), and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (MA). Daniel is the author of over 50 scholarly articles in the field of terrorism, political violence, and urban resilience, with a regional focus on sub-Saharan Africa. 

Jóhanna Kristín Birnir

Associate Professor
Department of Government and Politics
University of Maryland

Jóhanna Kristín Birnir is an Associate Professor in the department of Government and Politics.  She earned her PhD in 2001 from the University of California Los Angeles and taught at SUNY-Buffalo until 2007 when she joined the Department at Maryland.  In 2010 Jóhanna was appointed Research director of the Center for International Development and Conflict Management (CIDCM) and director of the Minorities at Risk (MAR) project (now AMAR, A for All).  Jóhanna studies the effect of identity (ethnicity, religion, gender) on contentious political outcomes (elections and violence).  She is especially interested in politics in Developing countries and has done extensive fieldwork in the Andes and in South-East Europe.  Jóhanna´s work is published in numerous academic journals including the American Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, Party Politics, Latin American Research Review.  Her last book "Ethnic Electoral Politics" was published by Cambridge.  Her work is supported by the National Science Foundation and The Department of Homeland Security.  

Jo-Marie Burt

Associate Profess of Political Science and Latin American Studies
Schar School of Policy and Government
George Mason University, Arlington, VA

Jo-Marie Burt has served as Director of Latin American Studies, Co-Director of the Center for Global Studies, and Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies, and she is an affiliate faculty in Global Affairs, Latin American Studies, Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and Women and Gender Studies. Dr. Burt is also a Senior Fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a leading human rights research and advocacy organization.

Dr. Burt has published widely on political violence, state-society relations, human rights and transitional justice in Latin America. Her early research focused on state and insurgent violence in Peru, and civil society responses to violence and violent actors. This was the subject of her 2007 book, Silencing Civil Society: Political Violence and the Authoritarian State in Peru (Palgrave), which received an Honorable Mention for the WOLA-Duke Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America, and which was published in Spanish as Violencia y Autoritarismo en el Perú: Bajo la sombra de Sendero y la dictadura de Fujimori (Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 2009; 2nd expanded edition, 2011). She is also co-editor of Politics in the Andes: Identity, Conflict, Reform (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004).

In recent years, Dr. Burt’s research has focused on the ways post-conflict societies confront demands for justice and accountability after atrocity. She has engaged in research and advocacy in relation to several high-profile human rights trials in the region, including the 2009 Fujimori trial in Peru and the 2013 Rios Montt genocide trial in Guatemala. She organized international observation missions to these trials, and advocated on behalf of the rights of victims to access justice in both instances. She is currently a research consultant for Open Society Justice Initiative, and writes on war crimes prosecutions in Guatemala for International Justice Monitor

Elizabeth A. Cole, PhD

Senior Program Officer
Center for Applied Research on Conflict
U.S. Institute of Peace
2301 Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20037

Elizabeth Cole is senior project manager in international affairs and human rights at the U. S. Institute of Peace. She has extensive experience in grant-making and in grantsmanship. Her research interests include the following:  transitional justice, post-conflict reconciliation and reckoning with violent history, and education and conflict, including the role of universities in conflict, peacebuilding and post-conflict transitions. Superb analysis, research, writing, translating, intercultural and editing skills; in-depth knowledge of politics, history, peace/conflict and security issues in regions including China and East/Southeast Asia, the former Soviet Union and Central/Eastern Europe. Languages: Chinese, Russian, French, German, Spanish and Polish.

Yuna Han

Postdoctoral Research Associate
European University Institute

Dr. Yuna Han is a postdoctoral research associate at the European University Institute with the ERC-funded project “Individualisation of War: Reconfiguring the Ethics, Law, and Politics of Armed Conflict” (ERC grant agreement no. 340956). Her research focuses on the intersection of international law and politics, specifically regarding international criminal justice. She is interested in understanding the political ramifications of prosecuting individuals for instances of mass violence, such as war crimes or genocide. She also works on the concepts of sovereign authority and agency in IR theory, as well as the impact of individualisation of responsibility for violence more broadly in the international system. She has previously conducted research on post-genocide politics in Rwanda.

Dr. Han received her D.Phil. (PhD) in International Relations from the University of Oxford. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Government with honours from Harvard University, and an M.Phil. in Politics from the University of Cambridge. She is the recipient of the 2016 Dasturzada Dr. Jal Pavry Memorial Prize, given to an outstanding thesis at the University of Oxford on the subject of international peace and understanding, and the recipient of the 2016 International Studies Association Women’s Caucus Best Graduate Student Paper award. She is also currently affiliated as a research associate at Centre on Conflicts, Rights, and Justice at SOAS, University of London.

Landon E. Hancock

Associate Professor   
Center for Applied Conflict Management
Political Science Department 
Kent State University 
Kent, OH 44242

Landon Hancock teaches courses for both the School of Peace and Conflict Studies and the Department of Political Science. His main area of focus is the role of ethnicity and identity in conflict generation, dynamics and resolution. This is coupled with an interest in grassroots peacebuilding, zones of peace and the role of agency in the success or failure of peacebuilding efforts.  Recent publications include articles in Peacebuilding, National Identities, Ethnopolitics, Peace & ChangeIrish Political StudiesPeace and Conflict StudiesConflict Resolution Quarterly, and Journal of Peace Education. He is editor of Narratives of Identity in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change (2016) and co-editor (with Christopher Mitchell) of two volumes, Zones of Peace (2007) and Local Peacebuilding and National Peace (2012). His research is focused on identity-driven conflict, from the reasons for its inception and outbreak to its resolution and to periods of post-conflict peacebuilding and transitional justice. From 2012 to 2016 he served as Chair of ISA’s Peace Studies Section, where he facilitated its growth from the organization’s 5th to 3rd largest section.

Dr. Hancock was awarded a Peace Scholar fellowship from the United States Institute of Peace for his dissertation, Peace from the People: Identity Salience and the Northern Irish Peace Process. He was also a summer fellow at the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at the University of Pennsylvania and a research fellow at RESOLVE, Center for Environmental Conflict Resolution, Research and Education.

Dr. Edel Hughes

Senior Lecturer in Law in the Royal Docks School of Business and Law
London, U.K.

Dr. Edel Hughes research interests are in the areas of international human rights law and public international law, with a regional interest in Turkey and the Middle East. She currently teaches human rights law and constitutional and administrative law.  Dr. Hughes graduated from University College Cork, Ireland, in 2002 with a BCL (Law and French). She was awarded an LLM and PhD degrees in International Human Rights Law from the National University of Ireland, Galway in 2003 and 2009 respectively.  Prior to joining the University of East London in January 2012, she was a lecturer in law at the School of Law, University of Limerick, Ireland, from 2006 and 2011. 

Edel's main research interests are in the area of international human rights law and she has published widely in this area. Her research to date has focused on human rights and conflict, freedom of religion, and minority rights, with a regional interest in Turkey and the Middle East.  She has also engaged in research and advocacy work for various non-governmental human rights organisations, including Relatives for Justice and the Kurdish Human Rights Project. Currently, she is a member of the Council of Experts of the Democratic Progress Institute and a member of the advisory board of the Center for Conflict Resolution Studies and Research at Istanbul Bilgi University.

Douglas Irvin-Erickson

Assistant Professor
Director of the Genocide Prevention Program
School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution
George Mason University, Arlington, VA  

Douglas Irvin-Erickson has worked in the field of genocide studies and atrocity prevention in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Cambodia, Myanmar, Ukraine, and Argentina. He is the author of books, chapters, and articles on genocide, religion and violence, human security, international criminal law, and political theory. His recent publication includes a book on the life and works of Raphael Lemkin, the originator of the word "genocide" who authored the UN Genocide Convention (UPenn Press, 2017). Irvin-Erickson also serves as Editor of Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal, the official publication of the International Association of Genocide Scholars. He holds a Ph.D. in Global Affairs from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and an M.A. in English Literature.

Solon Simmons

Associate Professor
School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution
George Mason University, Arlington, VA

A professional sociologist, Prof. Simmons is an intellectually polyglot and humanistic social scientist with formal training in sociology, the history and philosophy of science and business and informal training in just about everything else. Once aptly described as the ur-type of the University of Chicago undergrad, Solon's interests span the range of disciplinary knowledge with special focus on political ideas, social stratification, cultural sociology, collective memory, and the symbolic history of political dysfunction. His first book The Eclipse of Equality: Arguing America on Meet the Press tells the story of the atrophy in post-World War II America of one of the canonical categories of the moral imagination, equality. In this book he explores the progressive articulation of the American idea as the core values freedom and tolerance find ready advocates and rhetorical supports in postwar America, while equality thought of in non-ascriptive and universal terms stagnates and falls out of our collective vocabulary.

In a second book co-authored with Neil Gross, Professors and their Politics, Solon explores questions of the genesis of ideas with a more direct look at their producers--the professors. Building on a widely recognized set of surveys of American college and university professors, along with contributions from a wide array of scholars interested in the rise of the new politics of higher education, this book demonstrates what can be revealed about the politics of the professoriate when the topic is taken seriously from the perspective of sober social science. Solon is currently at work on several other projects. The first addresses the legacy of the famed but largely forgotten Sargent Shriver. Provisionally entitled America Unbroken: The Forgotten Legacy of Sargent Shriver, this book addresses the puzzle of why it is that there seems to be no one active today who can do the things Shriver did when he did them. Solon explores with co-author Jamie Price how Shriver did what he did when he did them, with attention to his capacity to fuse horizons of two meta-narratives of American development, the optimistic nineteenth century vision of a city upon a hill, with the less sanguine twentieth century story of America as colonial oppressor. 

Thomas W. Smith

Professor of Political Science
Director of the University Honors Program
University of South Florida St. Petersburg
140 Seventh Ave. South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Thomas W. Smith is professor of Political Science and director of the Honors Program at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg. He holds a B.A. in Anthropology from the College of William & Mary and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia. He has taught at USF St. Petersburg since 2000. From 1997-2000 Dr. Smith was an assistant professor of International Relations at Koç University in Istanbul. During the summer of 1999 he was a visiting scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. He spent the 2007-2008 academic year at Stanford University.

Dr. Smith’s research is focused on human rights, international humanitarian law, and Turkish politics. His latest book, Human Rights and War Through Civilian Eyes, was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2016. In addition, he is the author of History and International Relations (Routledge) as well as articles in International Studies QuarterlyHuman Rights QuarterlyInternational Studies PerspectivesJournal of Human RightsInternational PoliticsInternational Journal of Human Rights, History of Political Thought, Ethics & International Affairs, and PS: Politics & Political Science, among other venues. His research has been reprinted in translation or in collected volumes. His article “Can Human Rights Build a Better War?” won the Best Faculty-Practitioner Paper Award from the Human Rights section of the International Studies Association. 

Jacqueline Wilson

4641 23rd Street
North Arlington, VA 22207

Dr. Jacqueline Wilson has 30 years of international experience in peacebuilding, the military, and government. She worked for the U. S. Institute for Peace for over a decade and has designed and implemented over a hundred capacity-building workshops, dialogues and assessments in over 25 countries including Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines, Kosovo, and Colombia. She contributed to Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement and helped prepare stakeholders for the Darfur Abuja and Doha negotiations. She has published about local peace processes for USIP. She works on electoral violence prevention and has observed elections in Kenya and Sudan. A retired US Air Force reserve Lt. Col., she served as Reserve Attaché to Egypt, a Middle East Foreign Area Officer, and counter-terrorism analyst. Current positions include South Sudan Project Coordinator, U.S. Institute of Peace. 

Current Research Projects

Memory, History, and History Education

With this project we are engaged in research, education, and practice concerning production and reproduction of history and memory in conflicts and post-violent societies.  This project includes two tracks. (1) The tract on History Education examines the primary mechanisms, stakeholders, and media through which history education is disseminated in society, towards the goal of conflict resolution, democracy, and restorative justice.  (2) The tract on the Politicization of History analyzes how narratives of history and memory are charged with political meanings as instruments of power by government agencies, political parties, and civil-society organizations.  The project also fosters reconciliation of broken relationships in the aftermath of conflict, towards the goal of building a stable and peaceful future.

Power, Humiliation, and Conflict

This project examines those social and political systems that strategically deploy humiliation to systemically degrade, devalue, and diminish one’s self-image as a means of population control.  More than the momentary physical and emotional pain from a slap in the face, systematic humiliation is embedded seamlessly in social or political systems and released in efficient operations of bureaucrats, routine decisions of a political agency, or normal interactions with marginalized people in a “civilized” society. No one person is solely responsible, so culpability cannot be localized to a single person. In fact, the intentions of the system’s operators, agents, or leaders may not be consciously malicious. The product of this project includes (1) an authored book and (2) a volume of essays showcasing the findings of social science academics, scholar-practitioners, and civil rights activities. 

Human Rights and Identity Conflicts

This project focuses on two contrasting perspectives taken by scholar-practitioners, activities, civil society leaders, and political officials working in post-violent societies: human rights and identity politics. The human rights perspective centers on the normative objective principle of the inherent worth of all people, that “all members of the human family are born with dignity, equality, and inalienable rights” (Preamble, Universal Declaration of Human Rights).  The identity politics perspective centers on the strong correlation between ingroup identity and notions of outgroup difference, differentiation, and rank-ordering of segments of the population.  This juxtaposition of perspectives underpins the work of post-violent truth commissions, courts, and public hearings that are deployed to promote transitional justice, international NGOs engaged in bringing such perpetrators to justice, and organizations offering humanitarian relief. 

Identity-based Reconciliation

The aim of the program is to create a foundation for the Reconciliation Knowledge Management Database (RKMD) that can be expanded as a result of new sources of funding. This program is based on a set of case studies that permits consideration of reconciliation in diverse settings: as an infant process, an ongoing engagement, and as a mature concept. We plan to conduct a comparative analysis across multiple cases to verify and further develop the model and provide descriptions of variability and commonality in reconciliation processes. The cases give rise to domestic and international determinants of reconciliation. From these determinants we will compare the relative importance of major factors that shape reconciliation, such as history, identity, gender, power, leadership, institutions, and international context. The data will be open to the public and freely available for the purposes of scholarly research and publication. 

Concluded Projects

Sudan Task Group

The Sudan Task Group (STG) is committed to peace in Sudan through programs that entice and empower the people of Sudan to build positive relationships and a common vision for the future.

The project concluded in 2019

More information

Elective Courses in Prevention of Mass Violence

CONF 302: Culture, identity and Conflict

CONF 340: Global Conflict Analysis and Resolution

CONF 345: Social Dynamics of Terrorism, Security and Justice

CONF 393: Philosophy, Conflict Theory and Violence

CONF 625: Engaging Conflict

CONF 706: Ethics and Conflict

CONF 707: Gender and Violence

CONF 729: Approaches to Violence

CONF 749: World Religions, Violence and Conflict Resolution

CONF 708: Identity and Conflict

CONF 709: War, Violence and Conflict Resolution

CONF 720: Ethnic and Cultural Factors in Conflict Resolution

CONF 721: Conflict and Race

CONF 722: Conflict and Religion

CONF 723: Conflict and Gender

CONF 729: Approaches to Violence