Abstract Focusing on process tracing and using the example of fieldwork in Donbas, I develop an argument on what theoretically grounded and empirically detailed methodological solutions can be considered to mitigate the challenges of research on conflict zones and assure the robustness of any causal claims made. I first outline my assumptions about process tracing as the central case study method and its application to research on conflict zones, and then discuss in more detail data requirements, data collection, and data analysis. Using two examples of case studies on the war in and over Donbas, I illustrate how three standards of best-practice in process tracing—the need for a theory-guided inquiry, the necessity to enhance causal inference by paying attention to (and ruling out) rival explanations, and the importance of transparency in the design and execution of research—can be applied in the challenging circumstances of fieldwork-based case studies of conflict zones. I conclude by suggesting that as a minimum threshold for reliance upon causal inferences, these three standards also should align with a standard of evidence that requires both the theoretical and empirical plausibility of any conclusions drawn.
The article analyzes the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV) as a specific security technology created to deal with the ecological threat of biodiversity loss. Built in 2008 inside the Arctic Circle, the SGSV serves as a backup for 1,700 agricultural gene banks around the world. If seed collections are lost due to natural disasters or human error, the gene banks can request copies of their varieties from Svalbard and restore their collections to continue the endeavour of plant breeding. The article focuses on the particular temporal politics expressed in the SGSV. Drawing on Niklas Luhmann's reflections on time, it is argued that the SGSV opens up the possibility of reversing events by expanding the duration of the present. By separating seeds from their ecological connections on the one hand and controlling their metabolic processes through the use of cold on the other, an enduring temporal zone is created that allows modern society to control the unpredictable and irreversible dynamics of life and undo its emergent effects. The SGSV therefore materializes what is herein called the politics of reversibility.
The proliferation of armed, anti-crime self-defence groups ( autodefensas) in Mexico since 2013 has sparked renewed scholarly interest in vigilantism and the politics of collective violence more generally. Whilst most of this recent scholarship attempts to explain where and why such groups emerge in the first place, very little attention has been paid to the micro-foundations of vigilante organisation and behaviour. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in Mexico in 2018, and incorporating theoretical insights from the social movements, civil war, and organised crime literatures, this paper examines the political strategies and collection action regimes of contemporary vigilante mobilisation. I argue that vigilante groups in Mexico employ the tactics of popular insurgency both as a negotiating tool to influence government behaviour or policy, and as a primary mechanism to overcome collection action problems in high-risk environments.
In view of events such as the public denial of climate change research by well-known politicians, the effects of postfactual disinformation and emotionalisation are discussed for science. Here, so-called 'fake news' are of focus. These are considered problematic, particularly in a high-choice media environment as users tend to show selective behaviour. Much research has demonstrated this selective exposure approach, which has roots in the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (Festinger, 1957). However, research on the processes of coping with dissonance is still considered sparse. In particular, communication scholars have overlooked emotional states and negotiations. This article analyses the affects that are aroused when users are confronted with opinion-challenging disinformation and how they (emotionally) cope by using different strategies for online information. For this, we used the context of climate change that is widely accepted in Germany. The innovative research design included pre- and post-survey research, stimulus exposure (denying 'fake news'), observations, and retrospective interviews (n = 50). Through this, we find that perceptions and coping strategies vary individually and that overt behaviour, such as searching for counter-arguments, should be seen against the background of individual ideas and motivations, such as believing in an easy rejection of arguments. Confirming neuroscientific findings, participants felt relieved and satisfied once they were able to dissolve their dissonant state and negative arousal. Dissatisfaction and frustration were expressed if this had not been accomplished.