Those of you following the new analysis of environment, conflict, and security will know Dr. Colin Kahl’s work, principally his 2006 book States, Scarcity, and Civil Strife in the Developing World
. Those of us in the Washington, DC area were pleased to learn recently that Colin will take up an appointment this fall at Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program in the School of Foreign Service. He has been a regular writer
for the Environmental Change and Security Program.
Using Kenya and the Philippines as cases, Colin has pushed ahead our understanding of environmental scarcity and conflict links in a number of ways. He showed how top-down exploitation of environment and population linkages pitting one group against another (Moi in Kenya) must be added to our traditional conceptions of bottom-up grievance-based causal connections. He proposed a notion of “groupness” to explain why Moi in the early 1990s was able to use environmental (land) and population concerns to stir up violence in rural areas where tribal affiliations were stronger while lower levels of tribal affiliations or “groupness” in urban areas meant that violent conflict was largely absent between the same groups. Colin also presents a strong critique of the alleged “scarcity versus abundance” dichotomy when explaining resource connections to conflict. His review of Paul Collier et al’s oft-cited treatise on the abundance side of the ledger forcefully argues for viewing scarcity versus abundance as a false dichotomy while taking to task Collier’s operationalization of abundance.
Perhaps a bit of insider baseball but let me just urge those interested in really understanding these links to check out Colin’s work and say those of us working in DC welcome the opportunity to call on him as a local.