Research Projects and Faculty Expertise | Castleberry Peace Institute

Research Projects and Faculty Expertise


Colombia Projects. Castleberry Peace Institute Director James Meernik, and PSCI faculty Jacqueline Demeritt, Kimi King and Diego Esparza are involved in several long-term research projects with partners in Medellin, Colombia. They work with colleagues from EAFIT University (Administration and Finance School and Technology Institute), the Pontifical Bolivarian University, as well as other organizations of victims and former combatants in Medellin, Colombia to study topics related to peacebuilding and transitiional justice. CPI co-hosted a conference on peace and justice in Colombia in October, 2017 in Medellin, Colombia that brought together experts from around the world who discussed the prospects for peace and justice in Colombia in light of the recent peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC. Many of the conference papers became part of our volume, As War Ends, edited by James Meernik, Jacqueline Demeritt and Mauricio Uribe (EAFIT University). CPI has also sponsored visits to Medellin by faculty and students, hosted a Fulbright Scholar in Fall, 2022 and regularly holds talks by faculty, students and guest speakers. Current research projects include:

The Reintegration of Former Combatants. Professor Meernik and partners at Aulas de Paz, a Colombian NGO and EAFIT University administered a survey to nearly 300 former combatants from the rightist paramilitary forces and the leftist rebels of the former FARC-EP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, People's Army). We are using a social capital model to predict reintegration success and are working on a book-legnth project. There are opportunities to conduct research on all aspects of reintegration of former combatants in Colombia, as well as in Northern Ireland and Northeast India.

Demobilization and Peace Processes with Current Combatants. Professor Meernik and partners at Aulas de Paz, a Colombian NGO and EAFIT University are also conducting a survey of current members of criminal gangs and armed organizations in the city of Medellin and the surrounding region, historically one of the most violence prone areas of Colombia. The goal is to identify strategies for keeping young people from joining armed organizations, how current gang members might be demobilized and what resources will governments need to demobilize and reintegrate former combatants and gang members.

Fundacion Comite de Reconciliacion (Bogota).

  • The Reintegration of Former Combatants; Consequences of Human Rights Abuse; State Support for the Reintegration of Perpetrators. Professors DeMeritt and Meernik are working with the Fundacion, which is an NGO of former Colombian military officers who were accused of human rights abuses (the "false positives scandal") during the Colombian Civil War. We are conducting a survey of around 2000 of their members to determine what they experienced in war, what their lives have been like since war's end, how the state has (or has not) helped them reintegrate into peaceful society.
  • Why People Obey Orders to Kill Other People. Professors DeMeritt and Meernik are leading this effort as a large-scale follow-up to the current project. It is currently at the beginning stages. The goal is to probe the conditions and incentives that lead to (dis)obedience, and extend this understanding to extrajudicial killing beyond Colombian borders.

Altavista Project. A project investigating how to reduce violence, improve economic prospects and digitize memories from the conflict. Fuerza Feminanc - a project investigating how to improve the psychological and economic prospects of the women of Altavista.

Mothers of the Candelaria. A project in support of the Mothers group, which seeks to learn what happened to the many individuals who were "disappeared" during the Colombian violence. ¿Dónde están? Drs. King and DeMeritt are working with the Madres, a group of women whose children, spouses, siblings, and parents were disappeared during Colombia's long and violent conflict. Along with psychosocial experts, we are supervising free-writing and journaling exercises as the women process their memories. We will also conduct focus groups and interviews in which stories are told, tears shed, and history preserved. At the same time, the ¿Dónde están? campaign will publicize the many whose loved ones are still missing, and call for their location and identification. Characteristics, Circumstances, and Conditions of Disappearance. Drs. King and DeMeritt are also conducting a series of surveys and interviews, with the goal of creating an individual-level dataset of individuals who have been disappeared in Colombia. We will focus on the characteristics of the individual victims, the circumstances surrounding their disappearances, and the situational and institutional conditions that made it possible. This is one of the few empirical studies of disappearances with access to primary source data, and may be the very first with real-time interaction with the families of the disappeared. The goal is to understand how, when, and why disappearances occur so that they may be predicted and preempted in other places and times.

The Women's Market. A project to learn about how former combatants, in particular former Female FARC combatants can achieve a level of prosperity and security to make their reintegration a success.

Incidence of Violence in Colombia. Faculty are working on several projects analyzing why violence occurs, who is targetted and how does this violence affect voting.

Peace and Gender. Faculty are analyzing differences of opinion between men and women about the peace and reconciliation processes in Colombia.

Language Endangerment and Conflict

The Castleberry Peace Institute works with partners in the UNT Department of Linguistics and at Gauhati University and the Indian Institute of Technology in Guwahati, in the Northeast of India on projects related to understanding the role of conflict violence and language endangerment. Professors Shobhana Chelliah (Department of Linguistics, UNT) and Kimi King (Department of Political Science, UNT) won an NSF to grant to host a conference on language endangerment and conflict violence in 2018. Professors Meernik and King visited Northeast India in March, 2022 to begin the development of a formal research partnership and to begin developing academic research conferences for faculty and students.

Issue Correlates of War (ICOW)

Led by Dr. Paul Hensel and funded by the National Science Foundation, the US Agency for International Development and the Department of Defense's prestigious Minerva grant program ICOW is collecting data on territorial, maritime, and river conflicts around the world over the past two centuries. The project has already identified over one thousand disagreements and is studying what makes each one valuable to the involved countries and how these countries have managed their disagreements. ICOW focuses on conflicts that arise over competing territorial claims between two or more nations, conflicts that have the risk of escalating to war. Hensel has been building and updating this data set, which identifies "militarized interstate disputes" (MIDs) over such issues as border disputes, river and sea boundaries. ICOW then codes events that occur between each pair of nations in the dispute that could escalate to war. The most recent addition to ICOW has been the addition of identity claims - where two nations in a MID have some ethnic, religious, or other identity-based link that could make the risk of war greater or lesser in the absence of that identity issue. One example would be MIDs between the People's Republic of China and Taiwan over claims in the South China Sea, where the conflict between the two nations is affected by shared ethnic identities between their respective populations. ICOW project data sets have already been used by dozens of scholars studying international conflict and conflict management, shedding light on the situations where armed conflict is most likely as well as the most effective ways that these situations can be managed or settled peacefully.


REUNational Science Foundation, Research Experience for Undergraduates

The UNT National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) program on Civil Conflict Management and Peace Science is funded with grant of $358,000.00 for the period 2017-2020 (now in its fourth grant cycle since 2010). The program is the only political science NSF-REU site in the country, and is dedicated entirely to issues related to Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Peace Science. The aim of this program is to provide research experiences for undergraduate students from all majors with an introduction to research in the broad area of civil conflict management and peace science. This eight week, in-residence program at the UNT campus in Denton, Texas, includes workshops on theory building and Geographic Information System (GIS), research design and analysis, research ethics, and graduate school preparation. Further the program includes opportunities to present participant research results at local and national conferences. Dr. John Ishiyama is Director of the program.

Correlates of War National Material Capabilities Project
Andres Enterline and Michael Greig direct the COW National Material Capabilities project, maintaining the data set that is the most widely used academic resource for measuring the power capabilities of nation-states and the changes in those capabilities over time (dating back to 1816).

International Justice

Professors Kimi King and James Meernik have developed a series of research projects on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the International Criminal Court and other institutions of transitional justice throughout the world. Professor King and Meernik's research has focused on reconciliation after conflict, judicial decision making and sentencing decisions at the tribunals, crimes of sexual violence and gender issues, and the development of the first systematic database on the experiences and opinions of 300 witnesses who testified before the ICTY. Their book, The Witness Experience was recently published by Cambridge University Press. Professors King and Meernik are currently researching witnesses' views on the nature of international justice, consequences of witness tesimony and the development of a database on the decisions of the Bosnian War Crimes Chamber..


Professor Glen Biglaiser is a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of North Texas. Dr. Biglaiser's research in the area of human security focuses on the following topics: 1) The influence of economic sanctions on foreign direct investment (FDI), stock markets, and foreign asset expropriation; 2) the impact of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on foreign asset expropriation risk, FDI inflows, economic policies, poverty, and the likelihood of terrorism; 3) How conflict or terrorism affects sovereign bond ratings and Chinese overseas FDI as well as how social media and FDI flows impact domestic terrorism; 4) the effects of domestic terrorism, sovereign bond ratings, and debt restructurings on income inequality; and 5) The politics of Chinese overseas FDI in developed and developing countries. Prof. Glen Biglaiser is currently investigating political survival strategies autocratic regimes employ to stay in power, how Chinese overseas FDI appears to affect censorship in host countries where it invests and the impact of legal recourse on the price of sovereign bonds.

Professor Marijke Breuning's research employs role theory, which was originally developed in sociology and uses metaphors derived from the theatre. Rather than thinking in terms of "big powers" and "small states," role theory recognizes that decision makers actively shape the state's role(s) in international affairs. She investigates the tension between the "great power" aspirations of Russia and China and the regional power aspirations of Ethiopia, on the one hand, and their role as sending countries in international child adoption on the other. The latter role is widely perceived by decision makers as dissonant with the state's power aspirations. Decision makers often worry that participation in intercountry adoption detracts from their power aspirations. Professor Breuning's study focuses on when, why, and how the conflict between each state's power aspirations and its role as a sending country became an important political problem, as well as how decision makers resolved it. She shows that decision makers are deeply concerned about their international image, although the economic benefits derived from participation in intercountry adoption matter as well. The best interests of children, on the other hand, are less prominent in decision making.

Professor Jacqueline DeMeritt is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of North Texas. Professor DeMeritt's research focus on human rights, including explanations for rights violations as well as opportunities for international actors to protect vulnerable individuals. Her current projects focus on why low-level perpetrators participate in government killing events as well as on their responses to international intervention.

Professor Diego Esparza is a scholar of politics and comparative criminology. His work focuses on issues of human security in the domestic level of analysis with a focus on Latin America. Prof. Esparza's book with Lynne Rienner Publishers investigates the ways in which the level of centralization and professionalization of police impact the levels of police malfeasance in Latin America. Prof. Esparza has also published additional works studying police in Social Science Quarterly, Journal of Politics in Latin America, Defense and Security Analysis, and the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. His secondary research focuses on how civil wars impact politics, policing and public security. For instance, in a piece published in Civil Wars, he discovered that civil war violence has long term impacts on levels of criminal homicides. Prof. Esparza has published similar work in SSQ, Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties, International Area Studies Review, and International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice. Finally in terms of civil-military relations, he explores the political role of military troop deployment both internally and externally. His article in Democracy and Security studies the variation in citizen trust in the Mexican Army vs the Mexican Navy as being rooted in institutional-culture differences amongst these two forces. Prof. Esparza has similar work published in the Handbook of Civil-Military Relations, Comparative Political Studies and Defense and Security Analysis. Prof. Esparza is currently pursuing an avenue of research that examines the way in which troop deployment in the Mexican Drug War have shifted the electoral fortunes of incumbent parties and is currently writing a book about police reform in the United States under contract at the University of Michigan Press.

Professor Andrew Enterline is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of North Texas. His research focuses on interstate behavior, interstate war, counterinsurgency strategies and conflict outcomes.

Professor Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha is Professor of Political Science at the University of North Texas. His research focuses on the American presidency, and his contributions to research in peace studies and human security examine presidential use of force in Iraq and immigration policy. He is the author of nearly three dozen scholarly articles and four books. His most recent book, The Presidency and Immigration Policy: Rhetoric and Reality, coauthored with Eric Gonzalez Juenke and Andrea Silva (Routledge), explores the politics of presidential rhetoric on immigration policy.

Professor Michael Greig is Distinguished Teacher Professor at the University of North Texas in the Department of Political Science. His research interests include international conflict, security, and conflict management. Currently, Professor Greig's work focuses upon international mediation, peacekeeping, and the onset and termination of civil conflict.

Professor Paul Hensel is Professor of Political Science at the University of North Texas. His research concentrates on international conflict, conflict management, territorial claims, and international river management. His research has appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, Conflict Management and Peace Science, GeoJournal, International Negotiation, International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Peace Research, and Political Geography. He is also Co-director of Issue Correlates of War (ICOW) research project (

Professor John Ishiyama is Distinguished Research Professor at the University of North Texas. His area of research is democratization and political parties in post communist Russian, European, Eurasian and African (especially Ethiopian) politics, ethnic conflict and ethnic politics, the scholarship of teaching and learning. He is the Principal investigator, along with J. Michael Greig, for the National Science Foundation-Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) grant "UNT Civil Conflict Management and Peace Science" that funds one of only a few NSF-REU political science sites in the country. He is also an executive board member of both the Midwest Political Science Association and of Pi Sigma Alpha (the national political science honorary society) and on the advisory board of the Minorities at Risk (MAR)Project, the largest database on ethnic groups and conflict in the profession. Professor Ishiyama is also President Elect of the American Political Science Association.

Professor Kimi King is Distinguished Teacher Professor in political science at the University of North Texas. Her research looks at international criminal tribunals, gender and international justice, victims and international justice, and endangered languages and political conflict. She is co-author of The Witness Experience (Cambridge University Press, 2017) and Judging Justice (University of Michigan Press), both co-authored with James Meernik.

Professor Ko Maeda's research interests center on political institutions of democratic countries. One of the questions he asks in his research is how/why/when democratic political systems are terminated by, for example, military coups. In his 2010 Journal of Politics article, he demonstrated that military coups' chances are strongly linked with economic conditions and that presidential systems are more likely than parliamentary systems to experience a termination initiated by a democratically elected political leader. In his 2016 article published in Democratization, he showed that newly democratized countries initially experience a honeymoon period with low termination risks but the risks then increase until the eighth year after democratization before going down afterwards.

Professor Valerie Martinez is Distinguished Research Professor in political science at the University of North Texas. She specializes in research on race, ethnicity and politics (especially Latino politics), public policy (especially education and immigration), and survey research. She is co-author of Politicas: Latina Public Officials in Texas (2008); Making it Home: Latino Lives in America (2010) and Latinos in the New Millennium: an Almanac of Opinion, Behavior and Policy Preferences (2012). She also edited Perspectives on Race, Ethnicity and Religion: Identity Politics in America (2009) and a co-principal investigator for the Latino National Survey. She is Director of the Latino and Mexican American Studies program.

Professor Idean Salehyan is the Director of the Social Conflict Analysis Database (SCAD) project which tracks social and political unrest in Africa and Latin America. Using SCAD, he is working on a project which examines decisions by governments to repress their citizens, and another project that looks at the determinants of election-related violence. In previous research, he has used SCAD to look at how environmental factors contribute to social conflict and the tactical choices of dissident organizations. Dr. Salehyan is also editing a special issue of the journal, Journal of Peace Research, on the topic of Forced Migration and Conflict, which will appear in print in 2019. This special issue brings together researchers from the United States, Switzerland, Colombia, the UK, Norway, and
Turkey to shed light on the nexus between refugee flows and conflict processes.