The Conflict Research Society congratulates Sigrid Weber, winner of the Cedric Smith Prize 2023. Sigrid has recently completed her PhD at the Department of Political Science at University College London (UCL) and will shortly start as a postdoc at the Immigration Policy Lab at Stanford University. Her research is situated at the intersection of conflict studies and forced migration. The Cedric Smith Prize is awarded annually to the best article or thesis chapter in peace and conflict research by a PhD student.
Sigrid’s winning article “Controlling a Moving World: Territorial Control, Displacement and the Spread of Civilian Targeting in Iraq” examines how armed actors respond to population movements during civil wars. She argues that displacement alters local balances of control between territorial rules and challengers, who respond with distinct forms of violence to incoming supporters from opposing loyalty groups. To test her theory, she creates a novel monthly dataset of territorial control, one-sided violence against moving populations, and displacement patterns in the Iraqi civil war against the Islamic State, using a combination of manual coding and machine learning. Her findings show how civilian targeting by territorial challengers and rulers(re-)emerges in displacement destinations. Understanding these dynamics enhances our comprehension of violence in civil wars and can inform policy and practice concerning violence against displaced populations in conflict zones.
Sigrid’s article extends previous theories of civilian victimization and territorial control by conceptualizing local populations as a dynamic element that changes incentives for armed actors to govern with violence. The Cedric Smith Prize committee was impressed by the way in which Sigrid’s research combines novel theoretical insights with a carefully chosen and meticulously executed methodological and empirical approach.
The CRS received 22 excellent submissions for the prize from all over the world. Special mention goes to the following three authors who were shortlisted for the prize: Melanie Sauter for “Politicized Health Emergencies and Violent Resistance against Healthcare Responders” (see here), Andres D. Uribe for “Coercion and Capture in Democratic Politics”, and Sean Paul Ashley for “Born Strong: Wartime Institutions and the Durability of Rebel Regimes.”