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Forming Conflict Identities: The Role of Subgroup Leaders in Combatant Socialization

Erkiletian, Samuel A; (2024) Forming Conflict Identities: The Role of Subgroup Leaders in Combatant Socialization. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

What explains the variation in socialization outcomes in armed organizations? Why do some combatants adopt the intended norms of their organization while others resist them? The socialization processes of armed organizations profoundly shape the behaviors and attitudes of combatants and directly influence their repertoires of violence. Recent scholarship on the internal dynamics of armed organizations has advanced our understanding of within group factors that shape combatant preferences, but there are still significant theoretical and empirical gaps on combatant socialization. This dissertation presents and tests a framework that socialization is in part driven by subgroups—the smaller social units within armed organizations that form the informal structure and environment of combatants. Specifically, subgroup leaders—the small unit, junior and mid-level commanders of an organization—regulate the socialization processes of combatants by reinforcing or undermining the official norms of the organization. Subgroup leaders occupy a unique position of authority within both the formal and informal social networks of an armed organization that enables them to control the normative environment of combatants. I test this expectation using a mixed-method nested research design that leverages unique archival data from the American (1944-1945) and British (1945-1948) re-education programs for German POWs which sought to ‘democratize’ them. First, I conduct a controlled comparative case study of German POW camps in the UK, where British officials installed pro-democratic POWs into subgroup leadership positions in select camps. Second, I conduct a large-N analysis using a novel dataset constructed from British administrative reports to compare the variation in socialization processes and outcomes based on the subgroup leadership type of each camp. Third, I present a cross-case comparative study of the British and American re-education programs, which differed in their policies towards German subgroup leaders. Together, these analyses lend support for the argument that subgroup leaders shape socialization outcomes.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Forming Conflict Identities: The Role of Subgroup Leaders in Combatant Socialization
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2023. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Political Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10186529
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