Kaitlyn Robinson is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at Stanford University. Her research examines the emergence and evolution of rebel, insurgent, and terrorist organizations.
Kaitlyn’s dissertation shows how political and organizational forces create militant groups and enable their survival. It is composed of three papers, each of which explores a facet of how armed groups are formed and managed. In the first paper, Kaitlyn demonstrates that foreign powers are an important source of armed group formation in civil war. Using original data, she shows that groups created with the direct involvement of a state sponsor are more active perpetrators of violence in armed conflict. In the second and third papers, Kaitlyn shows that, once founded, armed groups face internal threats from discontented group members that undermine organizational cohesion and effectiveness. Group leaders must learn how to manage these internal challenges and create incentive structures that discourage coups and splits.
Kaitlyn draws on several new sources of data in this research, including two novel datasets and a series of in-depth field interviews with militant leaders in Southeast Asia. Her work is grounded in policy-relevant cases, including Myanmar and Afghanistan. Overall, her dissertation contributes original data and theory that elucidate the typically opaque processes of armed group formation and management.
Beyond her dissertation project, Kaitlyn’s research falls at the nexus of international relations and domestic politics. In a series of projects, she examines how armed groups use violence and maintain connections with international actors. Her work also explores the the organization of far-right extremists in the United States.