Amelia Hoover Green '03 on Preventing Wartime Violence Against Civilians

by Camila Ryder '13
A mural in El Salvador

In a recent post on the Peace and Conflict Studies blog, Amelia Hoover Green '03 detailed her research with the Armed Group Institutions Database (AGID), and her project that focuses on wartime violence against civilians. Green, an assistant professor in history and politics at Drexel University who majored in political science at Swarthmore, focuses on human rights and armed conflict in her research.

Green's current project, "War is Bad for Your Brain": Understanding and Preventing Violence Against Civilians During Armed Conflict," stems from discussions within the varying disciplines of social psychology, political science, and sociology about the effects of violence and warfare on the human mind.

"Armed conflict situations are full of stimuli that, experiments show, make people more prone to violence: fear, uncertainty, sleeplessness, general stress, insecurity, glorification of violence, alcohol, drugs, highly traditional masculinities - you name it, war's got it," Green writes.

As Green details on the AGID's profile on the website RocketHub, most wars today "don't have 'front lines' and aren't fought on faraway battlefields - and many, many more civilians are in harm's way." What arises from this reality is that the wartime trauma that many soldiers experience results in more acts of violence against civilians, as seen in research in social psychology. Green aims to determine from her research project how "armed organizations can (and therefore must!) prevent violence against civilians."

Instead of looking solely at the level of violence and the amount of civilians killed, Green's project aims to investigate all facets of civilian violence, such as "killings, sexual violence, torture, forced displacement and looting/extortion." Extensive data collection on armed organizations examines their involvement with conflicts between 1980 and 2010, and will determine correlations between the groups' "internal practices and behavior toward civilians." 

Through her research, Green aims to demonstrate that armed groups that construct "a strong positive identity around civilian protection, whether by informal methods or formal education," can control and lessen violence against civilians. "The AGID will allow us to test that theory," Green writes, "and along the way will provide a wealth of data about armed groups' structures that's never been gathered in one place before."

Green's project is partially funded by public donations. She is also looking for undergraduate assistants to aid in the data collection. More information on her project and how to become involved can be found here.