Sherry Zaks presents "Do we know it when we see it? Conceptualization and Cascading Bias in Identifying "Rebel-to-Party Transition""

Presentation Date: 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021


CGIS Knafel Building (K354) - 12:10-1:30 pm
Studies on rebel-to-party transition suggest that incorporating former-rebels into post-conflict politics creates a tenable path toward stability and democratization. Notwithstanding the salience of these results, the rebel-to-party literature is racked with an unacknowledged conceptual tension that simultaneously demands---and paves the way for---reconciliation. On the one hand, scholars exhibit remarkable convergence on both the core meaning and stakes of rebel-to-party transition. On the other hand, the literature reveals nearly as many different definitions of "rebel-to-party transition" as there are studies of it. Conceptual imprecision and discord together have an analytic ripple effect---compromising the validity of the concept, the quality of the measure, the inclusion criteria of datasets, and the results of analyses. To address these limitations, I propose a novel conceptualization of "rebel-to-party transition" that distinguishes among (failed) political aspirants, nominal participants, and seated participants. This framework places critical scope conditions on "failure," adds nuance to "success," and explicitly distinguishes between "transition" and ``transformation". I derive frameworks for data collection and measurement and run a series of replication analyses to both test the implications of existing disparities and demonstrate the utility of the new framework. 
See also: 2021