My substantive interests lie in the study of conflicts and violence that are framed along ascriptive boundaries. I am particularly interested in understanding how and why divisions arise between groups that are defined in ethnic and religious terms within societies. More recently, my research has broadened to include the study of the converse, that is understanding how and why ethnic and religious groups achieve coexistence, conciliation, and even cooperation in diverse societies.
My work is multidisciplinary and lies at the intersection of politics and sociology. Its focus is also often at the ‘bottom’ on non-elite actors, ordinary individuals. I work primarily on sub-Saharan Africa and more recently on south-east Asia. My research typically involves fieldwork, sometimes for extended periods of time, and I have field experience in Africa's Great Lakes and in Mindanao in the southern Philippines. Methodologically, my approach is catholic, employing techniques and data of both a qualitative and quantitative nature.
My first major project, which began with my PhD, examined the Rwandan genocide. I continued to research the genocide zeroing in on a number of questions about this world-historical event for which the answers we have are either non-existent, incomplete, or still contested.
My second major project looked at the relationship between inequality and social integration in the context of Mindanao, the Philippines. It examined how and why socioeconomic disparities between ethnic and religious groups affected the formation of social ties - in particular intermarriages - across socially-proscribed boundaries.
My next project considers the role of leadership in divided societies. It aims to explain how and why leaders with more moderate positions sometimes prevail at pivotal moments in ethnically and religiously divided societies, but at other times actors with more radical messages triumph.