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Brandon Sims

International Relations (PhD)

Brandon’s research centers on violent, non-violent, and self-violent forms of conflict. Why do some groups contesting the state wage unarmed resistance while other groups use armed tactics? What explains why some groups, contrary to expectation, maintain nonviolent action even after violent government repression? His dissertation research seeks to explain variation in tactic selection between violent and nonviolent action. Recent research in this area tends to focus on the onset of either violent or nonviolent campaigns, without investigating tactic change over time. Conventional explanations for variation over time emphasize that severe government repression is associated with increasingly violent tactics. Brandon’s focus is on whether group learning - from past conflict history, watching other groups, and training in violent or nonviolent methods - interacts with brokerage across social sites to produce violent and nonviolent variation in the context of weak or strong government repression.

His dissertation uses a mixed-method, sub-national research design in India to study this question. Another research project explores self-violent resistance, such as self-immolation, hunger strikes, or suicide protest, in relation to other forms of conflict tactics. Relying on a discourse analysis within India, this research explores the constitution of embodied self-harm in protest as a conflict tactic for both participants and researchers.

Brandon’s research has been supported by a Critical Language Scholarship from the United States Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, a Peace and Violence Research Lab Fellowship through the School of Public Affairs, as well as additional funding and methods training from the School of International Service. Prior to joining SIS he worked for five years in Central Java, Indonesia with Mennonite Central Committee, an international peace and development agency.

Recent Conference Presentations:

“Suicide Protest in India Database: Counting Self-Violence” presented in Baltimore, Maryland at the International Studies Association 58th Annual Convention, February 22-25, 2017.
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