Anastasia Shesterinina

Prof

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Civil war, social mobilisation, ex-combatant reintegration, civilian protection norms and practices, fieldwork methods and ethics

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Personal profile

Biography

I joined the Department in January 2023 as Chair in Comparative Politics. I currently hold a £1.2m UK Research and Innovation Future Leaders Fellowship and direct the Centre for the Comparative Study of Civil War established as part of this Fellowship. Previously, I was a Lecturer and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Sheffield and a Canada Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at Yale University, affiliated with the Program on Order, Conflict, and Violence at the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies. I obtained my PhD in Political Science from the University of British Columbia.

My fieldwork-intensive research explores the internal dynamics of and international intervention in contemporary armed conflict, with a focus on social mobilisation, ex-combatant reintegration and civilian protection norms and practices. In 2021, I launched a 7-year UKRI-funded Civil War Paths project “Understanding Civil War from Pre- to Post-War Stages: A Comparative Approach,” which views civil war as a social process that connects dynamics of conflict from pre- to post-war periods through evolving interactions between non-state, state, civilian, and external actors involved, and compares different paths civil wars follow through coordinated fieldwork and analysis with a team of interdisciplinary researchers. 

My book Mobilizing in Uncertainty: Collective Identities and War in Abkhazia (Cornell University Press, 2021) was awarded the APSA Interpretive Methodologies and Methods Charles Taylor Book Award and the ASEEES Davis Center Book Prize in Political and Social Studies in 2022. The book asks how ordinary people navigate the uncertainty of the war’s onset to arrive at different mobilisation decisions. Based on nearly 200 life history interviews with participants and non-participants in the Georgian-Abkhaz war of 1992-1993, it shows that individuals come to perceive risk in different ways, affected by earlier experiences of conflict and by social networks at the time of mobilisation, and act differently based on whom they understand to be threatened and mobilise to protect.

My work has been published in American Political Science ReviewJournal of Peace ResearchPerspectives on PoliticsEuropean Journal of International RelationsCambridge Review of International Affairs and International Peacekeeping, among other journals.

I have been actively involved in the debates on data access and research transparency in Political Science as a working group lead on Evidence from Researcher Interactions with Human Participants at the Qualitative Transparency Deliberations of the APSA Qualitative and Multi-Method Research Section and have written on ethics and openness in sensitive field-based research.

I have also contributed to policy discussions on conflict and peace processes, including at the Geneva Peace Week and the Chatham House panels on the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement in Colombia, as well as by acting as an expert on the Principles for Peace Stakeholder Platform.

Research interests

Civil War

I currently lead the Civil War Paths project “Understanding Civil War from Pre- to Post-War Stages: A Comparative Approach” funded by a £1.2m UK Research and Innovation Future Leaders Fellowship. This project seeks to transform how scholars and policymakers think about the dominant form of contemporary armed conflict. As part of the project, a team of interdisciplinary researchers analyse different paths that civil wars follow drawing on intensive coordinated fieldwork in Colombia, Lebanon, Nepal, and South Sudan. Life history interviews centre experiences of participants and non-participants in conflict and peace processes in these contexts.

Among other outputs, the project has resulted in the publication of a novel analytical framework for understanding civil war in European Journal of International Relations, which views civil war as a social process that connects dynamics of conflict from pre- to post-war periods through evolving interactions between non-state, state, civilian, and external actors involved.

The project is based in the Centre for the Comparative Study of Civil War that was established as part of this Future Leaders Fellowship. The Centre runs an international Fellowship Scheme attracting civil war researchers from academic and practitioner backgrounds and hosts a widely read blog with contributions from our Fellows and a seminar series with participation of top scholars in the field.

Social Mobilisation

Funded by major grants from the Canada Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, my research on social mobilisation involved immersive fieldwork over eight months with nearly 200 participants and non-participants in the Georgian-Abkhaz war of 1992-1993.

This fieldwork culminated in the publication of a single-authored article “Collective Threat Framing and Mobilization in Civil War” in American Political Science Review in 2016 and a book Mobilizing in Uncertainty: Collective Identities and War in Abkhazia with Cornell University Press in 2021, which was awarded the APSA Interpretive Methodologies and Methods Charles Taylor Book Award and the ASEEES Davis Center Book Prize in Political and Social Studies in 2022.

In this research, I ask how ordinary people navigate the uncertainty of the war’s onset to arrive at different mobilisation decisions from fleeing to fighting. I show that individuals come to perceive risk in different ways, affected by earlier experiences of conflict and by social networks at the time of mobilisation, and act differently based on whom they understand to be threatened and mobilise to protect. Combined, these elements underlie the socio-historical approach to mobilisation in civil war that this research advances.

Ex-combatant Reintegration

Since 2017, I have conducted field research with former mid-level commanders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army (FARC-EP). Originally funded by the Max Batley Seedcorn Grant. in Peace Studies at the University of Sheffield, this research has sought to understand varied experiences of ex-combatant reintegration after the signing of the 2016 peace agreement in Colombia based on rank in the armed organisation.

A research brief on the roles mid-level commanders have undertaken in the peace process has been published with the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute. As part of this research, I have collaborated with the Newton Fund RCUK-Colciencias Improbable Dialogues project, which resulted in a forthcoming co-authored book Participating in Peace: Violence, Development and Dialogue in Colombia with Bristol University Press.

Civilian Protection Norms and Practices

In parallel to my fieldwork with participants and non-participants in civil war, I have conducted desk research on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, focusing on such global actors as the United Nations and China. This single- and co-authored work has highlighted “particularized protection” practicesproblems of intervention and norm-shaping dynamics, particularly in the area of Responsibility to Protect (R2P).

Fieldwork Methods and Ethics

I have devoted considerable effort to examining and supporting Early Career Researchers (ERCs) on fieldwork methods. Careful attention to research ethics runs across my research. I have focused on openness in sensitive field-based research and the emotional dynamics of fieldwork in my published work.

As part of an APSA Qualitative Transparency Deliberations working group, I co-coordinated deliberations on data access and research transparency in the discipline, which resulted in a co-authored report and article in Perspectives on Politics, including guidelines for researchers, editors, reviewers and funders.

My single-authored work on openness in qualitative research is reflected in the extensive online appendices detailing my processes of data collection and analysis, for example, in my research on mobilisation in civil war, and contributions on the impact of emotional dynamics of fieldwork on research results and sources of evidence in field-intensive research on violent conflict.

Employment History

The University of Sheffield (1 January 2021-31 December 2022)
Senior Lecturer, Department of Politics and International Relations

The University of Sheffield (1 January 2017-31 December 2020)
Lecturer, Department of Politics and International Relations

Yale University (1 January 2015-31 December 2016) 
Canada SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow, MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Mobilization in Civil War: Latent Norms, Social Relations, and Inter-Group Violence in Abkhazia, University of British Columbia

1 Sept 200831 Dec 2014

Award Date: 13 Nov 2014

BA, Honors Double Major: Political Science and European Studies, York University

1 Sept 200431 Aug 2008

Award Date: 31 Aug 2008

External positions

External Expert for Promotions, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Methodology

20 Apr 2023 → …

External Examiner to the Programmes MSc Eurasian Political Economy Energy, MSc Russia in Global Systems and MSc Russian Politics & Society, King’s College London

16 Jan 201916 Nov 2020

Keywords

  • JA Political science (General)
  • Comparative Politics
  • International Relations
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Research Ethics

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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