Conflict dynamics

Intercommunal and self-determination conflicts often resemble the proverbial powder keg. Small triggering events can have major consequences. This research track will explore these kinds of non-linear short-term escalation dynamics in cultural identity conflicts. We will work in particular on the conceptualization, operationalization, and data generation of triggering events and escalation periods. To explain short-term escalations, special attention will be given to the role of collective emotions as necessary ‘fuel’ for sparking events. The research will remedy three prevailing shortcomings in the field: an inordinate focus on time-invariant structural factors, an overemphasis on top-down rationalist or framing approaches, and a failure to integrate collective emotions into the research on cultural identity conflicts. 

Ongoing Projects

  • Sparking Events, Emotional Climates, and Cascades in Cultural Identity Conflicts (funded by DFG, with C. Trinn, Heidelberg University)
    SPARK analyses the short-term escalation dynamics in cultural identity conflicts on a global scale. Conflictive mass behaviour is conceptualized as “cascades”, which are understood as propagations of self-organizing conflictive mass behaviour of varying intensity and extensity. In our model, an emboldening emotional climate provides the “fuel” that is sparked by a triggering event. As an intermediate step, we expect that the activated potential translates into action through collective self-organization. By combining triggering events, collective emotions and self-organization, SPARK investigates an innovative and comprehensive explanation of the non-linear short-term escalation dynamics of collective mass behaviour in cultural identity conflicts.




Recent Publications

  • Schulte, Felix. 2023. ‘On the Dynamics of Secessionist Conflict’. In Cittadinanza e Separatismi: Esperienze e Prospettive in Europa, ed. Giammaria Milani. Milano: Wolters Kluwer, 1–23
  • Schulte, F.; Steinert, C. V. Repression and Backlash Protests: Why Leader Arrests Backfire. International Interactions 2023, 0 (0), 1–30.


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