Shirts Today, Skins Tomorrow: Dual Contests and the Effects of Fragmentation in Self-Determination Disputes

Journal of Conflict Resolution

February 2012

Author Names
Kathleen Cunningham, Kristin M. Bakke, Lee J. M. Seymour


While theoretical models of conflict often treat actors as unitary, most self-determination groups are fragmented into a number of competing internal factions. This article presents a framework for understanding the "dual contests" that self-determination groups engage in—the first with their host state and the second between co-ethnic factions within groups. Using a new data set of the number of factions within a sample of self-determination groups from 1960 to 2008, the authors find that competition between co-ethnic factions is a key determinant of their conflict behavior. More competing factions are associated with higher instances of violence against the state as well as more factional fighting and attacks on co-ethnic civilians. More factions using violence increases the chances that other factions will do so, and the entry of a new faction prompts violence from existing factions in a within-group contest for political relevance. These findings have implications for both theory and policy.
Cunningham, K. G., Bakke, K. M., & Seymour, L. J. (2012). Shirts today, skins tomorrow dual contests and the effects of fragmentation in self-determination disputes. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 56(1), 67-93.

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