Battles without Bullets: Exploring the Outcomes of Unarmed Insurrections


Project Leader

Project Period

  • 2014-2020

Project member


Peace and conflict research has for long had an overwhelmingly large focus on explaining armed conflict. In particular, one dimension that has not been examined in research on nonviolent uprisings is the question of social ties, which has shown to be pivotal in the study of armed conflict. This project sets out to fill this research gap. We will contribute by exploring the central research question: Why do nonviolent insurrections succeed or fail? The project’s purpose is to explore the extent to which social ties between nonviolent movement and state help explain variation in outcomes. We suggest that the social ties between nonviolent movements and state actors affect the interaction between them, which accounts for different trajectories and outcomes in unarmed insurrections. This will be examined by using both quantitative and qualitative analysis including field work in Nepal. We contend that outcome also depends on strategies used by both parties, which we will be examined in three subprojects focusing on different identity markers (e.g. ethnicity, age, gender etc.), nonviolent movement strategies, and state strategies This project will thus make two major contributions: 1) it will collect new global data on unarmed insurrections 1989-2017, building on the world-leading conflict database by the Uppsala Conflict Data Program UCDP; 2) generate new knowledge on unarmed insurrection outcomes through examining the social ties between movement and state, which leads way to exploring the above named three subprojects. 

Susanne Schaftenaar’s is a PhD candidate within “Battles without Bullets.” Her project focuses on the onset, dynamics, and outcomes of nonviolent campaigns. More specifically, her present research is geared towards the impact of gender equality on nonviolent campaigns. 

Recently, she published the article “How (wo)men rebel" in the Journal of Peace Research, which explores how gender equality affects the onset of nonviolent campaigns and armed conflicts. The article find that increases in gender equality are, on average, associated with an increased likelihood of nonviolent conflict onset. 


We gratefully acknowledge financial support for this project by Marianne och Marcus Wallenbergs Stiftelse through grant MMW 2013.0025: Battles without Bullets


  • Schaftenaar, Susanne (2017) How (wo)men rebel: Exploring the effect of gender equality on nonviolent and armed conflict onset. Journal of Peace Research 54(6): 762–776.
  • Charles Butcher & Isak Svensson (2016): “Manufacturing Dissent: Modernization and the Onset of Major Nonviolent Campaigns”, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 60: 311-339.
  • Jonathan Sutton, Charles Butcher and Isak Svensson: "Explaining Political Jiu-jitsu: Institution Building and the Outcomes of Regime Violence against Unarmed Protests", Journal of Peace Research, 2014, Vol. 51(5), 559–573.

Related publications

  • Isak Svensson & Mathilda Lindgren, “From Bombs to Banners? The Decline of Wars and the Rise of Unarmed Uprisings in East Asia”, Security Dialogue, 42 (3) June, pp. 219-237, 2011     
  • Isak Svensson & Mathilda Lindgren, “Community and Consent? Exploring Unarmed Insurgencies in Non-democracies”, European Journal of International Relations,17 (1), pp.  97-120, 2011
  • Isak Svensson: ”Det kidnappade ickevåldet: En omvärldsanalys”, in Joel Halldorf, Bitte Hammargren, Isak Svensson, Sofia Walan (eds): Ickevåldets vägar: Fred i terrorns tid, Tro & Liv Skriftserie, 2016
  • Svensson, Isak and Lindgren, Mathilda: “Peace and Protest: unarmed insurrections in East Asia, 1946-2006”, Asia Insight 2/2009
  • Book review on ”Civil resistance and Conflict Transformation: Transitions from armed to nonviolent struggle, ed. Véronique Dudoet, Routledge 2015”, Cooperation and Conflict

Working papers

  • Isak Svensson: Uncivil resistance: Strategic nonviolence and conflict resolution, book-manuscript, work-in-progress
  • Charles Butcher & Isak Svensson: “To Arms or To The Streets? Explaining the Choice of Religious Groups between Nonviolent and Violent Insurrection Strategies”, R&R, Journal of Global Security Studies
  • Katariina Mustasilta & Isak Svensson: “Divided We Fall: Ethnic cleavages and conflict escalation in nonviolent uprisings, 1970-2014”, under review
  • Daniel Finnbogason & Isak Svensson: “How Jihadist States End: Exploring the Termination Patterns of Revolutionary Islamist Statelets”, ms, 2017

Op-Eds, etc.

  • Joel Halldorf, Bitte Hammargren, Isak Svensson och Sofia Walan: “Dags att avliva myterna om ickevåld”, ETC DEBATT, 2016-09-12, re-published on
  • Interview in Swedish national radio, Ickevåldsstrategier mer effektiva, Studio Ett, Sveriges Radio, 2016-03-09
  • Isak Svensson: När ickevåld blir ett krigsredskap, SvD, Understrecket