My work has been published or is forthcoming in the American Political Science Review, Perspectives on Politics, Social Science and Medicine, Comparative Politics, European Journal of International Relations, PS: Political Science and Politics, and the Middle East Report. I have also authored essays for Political Violence @ a Glance, the Middle East Report Blog, the London School of Economics' Middle East Center Blog, and the Monkey Cage. You can find links to my publications below.


Parkinson, Sarah E. 2013. “Organizing Rebellion: Rethinking High-Risk Mobilization and Social Networks in War.” American Political Science Review 107 (3): 418–32.


Research on violent mobilization broadly emphasizes who joins rebellions and why, but neglects to explain the timing or nature of participation. Support and logistical apparatuses play critical roles in sustaining armed conflict, but scholars have not explained role differentiation within militant organizations or accounted for the structures, processes, and practices that produce discrete categories of fighters, soldiers, and staff. Extant theories consequently conflate mobilization and participation in rebel organizations with frontline combat. This article argues that, to understand wartime mobilization and organizational resilience, scholars must situate militants in their organizational and social context. By tracing the emergence and evolution of female-dominated clandestine supply, financial, and information networks in 1980s Lebanon, it demonstrates that mobilization pathways and organizational subdivisions emerge from the systematic overlap between formal militant hierarchies and quotidian social networks. In doing so, this article elucidates the nuanced relationship between social structure, militant organizations, and sustained rebellion

Hundman, Eric, and Parkinson, Sarah E.. 2019. “Rogues, Degenerates, and Heroes: Disobedience as Politics in Military Organizations.” European Journal of International Relations. Online:


Disobedience in military organizations affects critical outcomes such as the quality of civil-military relations, the likelihood of civilian abuse, and battlefield effectiveness. Existing work on military disobedience focuses on group dynamics; this paper instead investigates the circumstances under which individual officers disobey. We argue that officers interpret military orders based on their concurrent positions in multiple social networks and that, contingent on the soldier’s environment, such orders can “activate” tensions between overlapping social network identifications. These tensions create motivations and justifications for disobedience. We develop this theory via in-depth case studies of individual officers’ disobedience in the Chinese military and the Palestine Liberation Organization, combined with an examination of ten additional cases outlined in an appendix. Relying on primary sources, we demonstrate how identifications with overlapping social networks led two ostensibly dissimilar officers to disobey in similar ways during the Sino-French War (1883-85) and the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1989). Our theory thus shows how overlapping social networks create conditions of possibility for even well-trained, loyal commanders to disobey their superiors. In doing so, it highlights the critical fact that even within the context of intensive military discipline and socialization, individuals draw on identifications with varied social networks to make decisions. Further, it implies that individual disobedience should be studied as conceptually separate from collective events such as mass desertion or unit defection.

Parkinson, Sarah E., and Sherry Zaks. 2018. “Militant and Rebel Organization(s).” Comparative Politics, 50 (2): 271-293.


An emerging trend in research on militant groups asks how structures, dynamics, and relationships within these organizations influence key wartime and postwar outcomes. While the analytical pivot toward organizations advances the field in essential ways, scholars still lack a unified conceptual approach to organization-centric analyses of militancy. This article distills four key dimensions for analysis from organizational sociology: roles, relations, behaviors, and goals. It then reviews four new works on militant organizations and outlines their place in this emergent research trajectory. These books, we argue, underscore how situating research at the organizational level sheds new light on political outcomes such as rebel resilience, social service provision, and deployment of violence. We then highlight two related and promising organizational research agendas for future studies.

Parkinson, Sarah E.. 2016. “Money Talks: Discourse, Networks, and Structure in Militant Organizations.” Perspectives on Politics 14 (4): 976–94.


Scholarship on militant organizations and rebel movements emphasizes the effects of fragmentation and disunity on military and political outcomes. Yet this scholarship’s focus on formal, durable, and externally observable aspects of organizational structure omits the social practices that constitute, reinforce, and reproduce intra-group schisms. How do intra-organizational divisions calcify into permanent cleavages? What processes reproduce factions over time? Using the case of Fatah in Lebanon, I argue that informal discursive practices—e.g., gossip, jokes, complaints, storytelling—contribute to the maintenance and reproduction of intra-organizational factions. Specifically, I focus on how networks of meaning-laden, money-centric discourse structure relations among militants who identify as being “Old Fatah.” I demonstrate that while these practices frequently originate in the organizational realm, cadres subsequently reproduce them within kinship, marriage, and friendship networks. This “money talk” between age cohorts within the quotidian realm connects younger members of Fatah to older cadres through collective practices and conceptions of organizational membership. These practices both exemplify an intra-organizational schism and constitute, in part, the faction called Old Fatah. Examining how symbolic practice comprises social structure thus provides important insight into the politics of organizations such as militant groups, social movements, and political parties.

Parkinson, Sarah E., and Orkideh Behrouzan. 2015. “Negotiating Health and Life: Syrian Refugees and the Politics of Access in Lebanon.” Social Science & Medicine 146: 324–31.


In the context of ongoing armed conflicts in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq, it is vital to foster nuanced understandings of the relationship between health, violence, and everyday life in the Middle East and North Africa. In this article, we explore how healthcare access interacts with humanitarian bureaucracy and refugees' daily experiences of exile. What are the stakes involved with accessing clinical services in humanitarian situations? How do local conditions structure access to healthcare?

Building on the concept of “therapeutic geographies,” we argue for the integration of local socio-political context and situated knowledge into understandings of humanitarian healthcare systems. Using evidence gathered from participant observation among Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, we demonstrate how procedures developed to facilitate care—such as refugee registration and insurance contracting—can interact with other factors to simultaneously prevent and/or disincentivize refugees' accessing healthcare services and expose them to structural violence. Drawing on two interconnected ethnographic encounters in a Palestinian refugee camp and in a Lebanese public hospital, we demonstrate how interactions surrounding the clinical encounter reveal the social, political, and logistical complexities of healthcare access. Moreover, rather than hospital visits representing discrete encounters with the Lebanese state, we contend that they reveal important moments in an ongoing process of negotiation and navigation within and through the constraints and uncertainties that shape refugee life. As a result, we advocate for the incorporation of situated forms of knowledge into humanitarian healthcare practices and the development of an understanding of healthcare access as nested in the larger experience of everyday refugee life.

IN PROGRESS: “Mythologies of Militancy: Ideology and Intimacy in Rebel Groups.” Under review as of December 2018.


Ideological differences between armed groups undergird polarization in conflict and post-conflict environments. Ideology also shapes militant recruitment, organization, strategy, reconciliation, and electoral participation. However, existing research assumes doctrinal consistency, top-down socialization of adherents, and clear links between formal ideology and political action. I argue that “practical ideology”—everyday acts of boundary making and social distancing via social practices—rather than formal doctrine undergirds political polarization. Ethnographic and archival evidence collected during fieldwork among Palestinians in Lebanon demonstrates how militants render ideas about ideological closeness and distance accessible via emotional, intellectual, and moral appeals. This approach reaffirms the role of discourse and narrative in creating “social heuristics” that imply differing levels of ideological proximity between militant organizations’ members without expressly invoking formal doctrine. The cleavages that constitute polarization thus embed and reproduce in communities due to routinized patterns of social practice, rather than hard and fast doctrinal distinctions.



The ruins of Khiam prison camp in South Lebanon

The ruins of Khiam prison camp in South Lebanon


"How the Houthis Became "Shi'a". Middle East Report Online. With Anna Gordon.

"How to watch 'Star Wars' like an insurgent." The Monkey Cage.

Wartime sexual violence is not just a ‘weapon of war.’” The Monkey Cage. With Kerry F. Crawford and Amelia Hoover Green.

Educational Aftershocks for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon.” Middle East Research and Information Project Blog.

(In)discriminate language on Gaza.” The Monkey Cage. With Evgeny Finkel.

"Refugee 101: Palestinians in Lebanon Show Refugees from Syria the Ropes." Middle East Report Online.

field methods, ethics, and preparedness

The Ethics of Fieldwork Preparedness.” Political Violence @ a Glance. With Milli Lake.

Through the Looking Glass: Information Security and Middle East Research.” POMEPS Studies 24: New Challenges to Public and Policy Engagement. Washington, DC: Project on Middle East Political Science.

Transparency in Intensive Research on Violence: Ethical Dilemmas and Unforeseen Consequences.” Qualitative and Multi-Method Research 13(1): 22-27. With Elisabeth Jean Wood. 

Towards an Ethics of Sight: Violence Scholarship and the Arab Uprisings.” London School of Economics Middle East Center Blog. 

Practical Ethics: How U.S. Law and the “War on Terror” Affect Research in the Middle East.” POMEPS Studies 8: Ethics and Research in the Middle East. Washington, DC: Project on Middle East Political Science.

Front page of a clandestine Palestinian newspaper published in 1980s Lebanon

Front page of a clandestine Palestinian newspaper published in 1980s Lebanon