PEER REVIEWED PUBLICATIONS
Parkinson, Sarah E.. 2019. “Crisis Research as Intervention.” Middle East Report 290 (Spring 2019): 29-37.
Online at https://merip.org/magazine/290/.
Given that research in crisis-affected settings necessarily involves intervention, important questions arise about how academic projects interact with those of other actors and how these can produce harmful effects. When are researchers unknowingly reproducing sensitive and dehumanizing interactions; fetishizing and commodifying human tragedy; or engaging in problematic labor dynamics? In a regional situation where reinvigorated authoritarian regimes are ratcheting up surveillance, harassment and violence against researchers, the ‘crisis zones’ of displaced persons and refugees have emerged as alternative sites where the state’s official coercive presence is seen as less obtrusive or threatening to researchers. As larger numbers of scholars gravitate toward these locales one must ask what benefit such research—as carried out by social scientists—in fact provides. Drawing upon a decade of observations and experiences from field-based research with armed actors, displaced persons and humanitarian responders in Lebanon and Northern Iraq, I ask if “do no harm” is a sufficient pre-condition for conducting social science research in crisis zones, and what kinds of practices research communities should consider moving forward.
Ghosn, Faten and Parkinson, Sarah, E.. 2019. “‘Finding’ Sectarianism and Strife in Lebanon.” PS: Political Science and Politics 52 (3): 494-497.
Online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1049096519000143
Lack of contextual knowledge among both qualitatively and quantitatively oriented scholars substantiates overused categories of analyses, undermines data validity, and inhibits ethical production of knowledge. This article addresses three distinct, interrelated predicaments in the Lebanese context: (1) a generally uncritical focus on sect/sectarianism as the primary explanatory factor in Levantine politics; (2) research tourism/voyeurism; and (3) effects of these two factors on the survey-firm industry in Lebanon.
We first focus on the trap of seeing Lebanon exclusively through the prism of sect, partly because most previous work has centered on this form of identification. Second, we identify how this trend interacts with the growing valorization of “dangerous” research, which has played out in Lebanon in both the aftermath of the 2006 July War and the context of the Syrian refugee crisis. We identify problems associated with “academic tourism,” including ignorance of local histories and its effects on research design and analysis. Third, we note how Lebanese actors have responded by offering survey services tailored to the foreign-researcher market and shaped by its expectations. We conclude by arguing for more careful historical contextualization, creative casing of research, responsible research practices, and critical engagement with the production of academic knowledge.
Hundman, Eric, and Parkinson, Sarah E.. 2019. “Rogues, Degenerates, and Heroes: Disobedience as Politics in Military Organizations.” European Journal of International Relations. (Online First)
Online at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1354066118823891.
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.
Online at https://doi.org/10.5129/001041518822263610
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.
Online at https://doi.org/10.1017/S1537592716002875.
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.
Online at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.10.008.
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.
Parkinson, Sarah E. 2013. “Organizing Rebellion: Rethinking High-Risk Mobilization and Social Networks in War.” American Political Science Review 107 (3): 418–32.
Online at https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003055413000208.
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.