Scholars have long struggled to establish a clear link between socioeconomic inequality and large-scale conflicts such as civil wars. We know that serious inequality exists even in the most peaceful countries, so when and why does it become a motivating factor of violent conflict? New spatial models developed by Lars-Erik Cederman suggest that the answer lies in the way ethnicity is used to define group identities. His research is providing a clearer picture of how civil wars break out and how they might be prevented.
Lars-Erik Cederman earned his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan in political science, where he studied with Robert Axelrod. His dissertation was subsequently published in 1997 by Princeton University Press as Emergent Actors in World Politics: How States and Nations Develop and Dissolve, which received the 1998 Edgar S. Furniss Book Award. He has held a number of appointments in Europe and the U.S., including the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Oxford, UCLA, the European University Institute, and as an Olin Fellow at Harvard. In 2001, he was appointed Frederick S. Danziger Associate Professor of Government at Harvard, where he served until his move to ETH in 2003.
His main research interests include computational modeling, international relations theory, nationalism, integration and disintegration processes, and historical sociology. He applies a variety of tools, chief among them statistics and agent-based modeling. The latter method is a particular type of computational technique that allows the analyst to create, analyze, and experiment with artificial worlds populated by agents that interact in nontrivial ways.
Cederman is editor of Constructing Europe's Identity: The External Dimension (Lynne Rienner, 2001). He is also the author and co-author of numerous articles in such journals as World Politics, Journal of Peace Research, International Studies Quarterly, American Political Science Review, European Journal of International Relations, and Journal of Conflict Resolution.
Professor of International Conflict Research, ETH Zürich