Doctoral Dissertation Research: Homeward Bound: Return Migration and Post-Conflict Governance


V. Page Fortna
Harold Brown Professor of U.S. Foreign and Security Policy
Stephanie Schwartz
PhD Student


This dissertation examines the political impact of return migration after civil war. Violence wrought by civil war forces millions of people to flee their homes. While scholars have demonstrated how these population movements can spread and exacerbate conflict, return-migration is assumed to be a purely logistical issue. Once the war is over, people will simply return home and pick up where they left off. Yet, conflict between returning and non-migrant populations is a nearly ubiquitous issue for post-conflict societies from South Sudan to Iraq and Rwanda. Why does return-migration—usually a sign of increased peace and stability— so often lead to conflict? To understand this puzzle, the dissertation uses political ethnographic data collection methods, including semi-structured interviews, documents and archive analysis, in the primary case of Burundi to test a theory of the political impact of return migration. It then uses comparative case studies to demonstrate how the theory works across civil war contexts. By providing an explanation for how an often-ignored but ubiquitous consequence of civil war – the return of displaced populations – affects post-conflict communities this project will generate a more holistic account of the dynamics of violence after civil war and help advance both the study and the practice of post-conflict peace building.