I am an Associate Professor of Political Science at Boston College and a Research Affiliate with the MIT Security Studies Program. My co-edited book Stories From the Field: A Guide to Navigating Fieldwork in Political Science was just published with Columbia University Press. My research and teaching focus on Middle East politics, terrorism and political violence, nationalism, rebels and revolution, and international relations. I give talks to universities, think tanks, and business and community groups, and I conduct media interviews. I have a Ph.D. in political science from MIT and a B.A. in political science and history from Williams College.
Ora Szekely and I are proud to announce that our co-edited volume Stories from the Field: A Guide to Navigating Fieldwork in Political Science was named an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice for 2021. We share this honor with the 42 other contributors to the volume, the editors and staff of Columbia University Press, and all of the individuals we engage with in the course of our research—to whom we dedicated the volume. We hope this award will help the book find its way into more libraries and syllabi, as we wrote it with students and junior faculty in mind. Check out our accompanying podcast, where we interview volume authors about their careers and research.
My forthcoming article in Security Studies with Emil Souleimanov and David Siroky draws on original interviews with ex-insurgents and eyewitnesses of the Second Chechen War (1999-2009) to develop a theory of “kin killing,” defined as the use of lethal violence against the relatives of insurgents as a deliberate counterinsurgency tactic. Family-based targeting works by coercing insurgents to surrender or defect, deterring insurgents’ relatives from retaliation, and discouraging prospective recruits from joining or supporting insurgents. Because it targets a small number of individuals who have strong ties to insurgents, kin killing is the most selective form of collective violence. The tactic is most likely to be used by illiberal regimes that know the identity of the insurgents, but not their location, and operate in traditional societies with large, tightly knit families. Most would consider kin killing—and its non-lethal counterpart, kin targeting—ethically reprehensible, but numerous countries have employed it with varying degrees of success, including Russia, the United Kingdom, and China. Militarily dominant regimes who employ kin killing can turn family members from force multipliers into pressure points for insurgents, as regimes “flip the network” and make restraint, rather than revenge, the best way to protect the family.
Although only 23 people on average have been killed per year by terrorist attacks in the United States since 2001, American citizens and politicians consistently rank terrorism as a top security threat, leading to costly wars abroad and the repression of civil liberties at home. To what extent can education about terrorism alter perceptions of the threat? Much existing scholarship—and consistent polling over the past two decades—suggests that it cannot, but in my forthcoming article in Journal of Conflict Resolution with Daniel Gustafson, Liane Young, and Jordan Theriault, we disagree. Evidence gathered from an extensive series of experimental and observational surveys involving students in 31 terrorism and non-terrorism related courses at 12 universities—including massive open online courses (MOOC) and online surveys—reveals that the more individuals learn about terrorism, the smaller they perceive the threat to be to themselves and to the U.S. In the fight against terrorism and the fear it inspires, knowing really is half the battle.
© 2022 by PETER KRAUSE