Kai M. Thaler

Photo of Kai M. Thaler
Assistant Professor

Office Location

SSMS 2103


Conflict and violence, civil wars, protests and repression, statebuilding, democracy and authoritarianism, African and Latin American politics


Ph.D. in Government, Harvard University
M.A. in Government, Harvard University 
M.Soc.Sc. in Sociology, University of Cape Town
B.A. in Political Science, Yale University


Kai M. Thaler is an Assistant Professor of Global Studies. He received his Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University. Thaler's research focuses on conflict and violence from the local to the global level. He has studied issues ranging from violence against civilians in civil wars and post-conflict politics in Africa and Latin America, to violent crime in South Africa, to genocide and mass killing in Southeast Asia. His book project, When Rebels Win: Ideology, Statebuilding and Power after Rebel Victory in Civil War (under contract with Cornell University Press), examines how the ideals and goals around which rebel groups are organized affect the statebuilding and service provision policies and practices they pursue if they gain control of an internationally-recognized state. Thaler also has research and teaching interests in qualitative and mixed methods research methodology and research in violent environments. In addition to academic publications, he regularly writes for public and policy audiences, and his analysis and commentary have been published by outlets including Foreign Policy, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wahsington Post.
Prior to his Ph.D., Thaler was a research design and coordination consultant for Handicap International for work on armed violence-related disabilities in Colombia, Haiti, Pakistan, and Uganda; a researcher at the Centre for Social Science Research at the University of Cape Town for a study of everyday violence in South Africa; and a DGARQ/FLAD Research Fellow at the Portuguese national archives, where he studied reports of rebel violence against civilians in Angola and Mozambique in the archives of the Portuguese colonial secret police.



2024. “Levels of Analysis and Variation in Civil War Violence and Restraint: Ideology and Contestation in Nicaragua,” Journal of Global Security Studies 9(2): ogae018.

2024. “Statebuilding and Indigenous Rights Implementation: Political Incentives, Social Movement Pressure, and Autonomy Policy in Central America,” World Development 175 (March): 106468 (with Giorleny Altamirano Rayo and Eric Mosinger).

2023. “Framing Police Violence: Repression, Resistance, and the Persistent Power of History in Chile,” Journal of Politics  85 (4), (with Lisa Mueller and Eric Mosinger).

2022. “Rebel Mobilization through Pandering: Insincere Leaders and Exploitation of Popular Grievances,” Security Studies 31(3): 351-380. Methodological appendix available here.

2022. “Taking Responsibility and Tying Hands: The Case for Limiting U.S. Relationships with Armed Groups,” Harvard International Law Journal Online 63. Full text here.

2022. “Nicaragua: Doubling Down on Dictatorship,” Journal of Democracy 33(2): 133-146 (with Eric Mosinger). Due to space and citation limits, an additional annotated bibliography is here.

2022. “Delegation, Sponsorship, and Autonomy: An Integrated Framework for Understanding Armed Group-State Relationships.” Journal of Global Security Studies 7(1): ogab026.

2022. “Civil Resistance in the Shadow of the Revolution: Historical Framing in Nicaragua’s Sudden Uprising.” Comparative Politics 54(2): 253-277 (with Eric Mosinger, Diana Paz García, and Charlotte Fowler).

2021. “Military Integration and Intelligence Capacity: Informational Effects of Incorporating Former Rebels.” Political Research Exchange 3(1): 1-21.

2021. “Reflexivity and Temporality in Researching Violent Settings: Problems with the Replicability and Transparency Regime.” Geopolitics 26(1): 18-44.

2018. “Has Liberia Turned a Corner?Journal of Democracy 29(3): 156-170 (with Benjamin Spatz).

2017. “Nicaragua: A Return to Caudillismo.” Journal of Democracy 28(2): 157-169.

2017. “Mixed Methods Research in the Study of Political and Social Violence and Conflict.” Journal of Mixed Methods Research 11(1): 59-76.

2016. “Dynamique et diversité des armées africaines: État des connaissances.” Afrique Contemporaine 2016/4(260): 27-44 (with Jason Warner).

2014. “Socioeconomic Conditions and Violence in Cape Town, South Africa.” Economics of Peace and Security 9(2): 34-42 (with Jeremy Seekings).

2012. “Ideology and Violence in Civil Wars: Theory and Evidence from Mozambique and Angola.” Civil Wars 14(4): 546-567.

2012. “Foreshadowing Future Slaughter: From the Indonesian Killings of 1965-66 to Genocide in East Timor.” Genocide Studies and Prevention 7(2/3): 204-222.

2009. “Avoiding the Abyss: Finding a Way Forward in Guinea-Bissau.” Portuguese Journal of International Affairs 1(2): 3-14.

Book Chapters

2022. “Nicaragua: Populist Performance and Authoritarian Practice during Covid-19” in Nils Ringe and Lucio Renno (eds.), Populists and the Pandemic: How Populists Around the World Responded to COVID-19 (New York: Routledge), pp.184-195 (with Rachel Schwartz).

2021. “Nicaragua and Covid-19: Authoritarian Indifference,” in Jan Nederveen Pieterse, Haeran Lim, and Habibul Khonder (eds.), Covid-19 and Governance: Crisis Reveals, pp.229-241 (New York: Routledge).

2019. “Mixed Methods in the Study of Violence,” in Walter S. DeKeseredy, Callie Marie Rennison, and Amanda K. Hall-Sanchez (eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of Violence Studies, pp.19-29 (New York: Routledge).

2018. “U.S. Action and Inaction in the Massacre of Communists and Alleged Communists in Indonesia,” in Samuel Totten (ed.), Dirty Hands and Vicious Deeds: The US Government’s Complicity in Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide, pp.23-69 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press).

2013. “Brazil, Biofuels, and Food Security in Mozambique,” in Renu Modi and Fantu Cheru (eds.), Agricultural Development and Food Security in Africa: The Impact of Chinese, Indian and Brazilian Investments, pp.145-158 (London: Zed Books).

Additional works are available at https://kaithaler.com/publications/,


Global 120 Global Ideologies and World Order

Global 124 Peace, Conflict, and Violence in Global Perspective

Global 224 Research Methods

Global 292BG Contemporary Global Conflict: Nonviolent and Violent Resistance and Repression