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Abstract

Scholars of insurgency agree that agency is located in both centre and periphery, in both the private and the political spheres. This study attempts to connect these sites by concentrating on the structuring power of property. Rather than asking why groups rebel against the state, I ask how they rebel. Specifically, I ask how pre-existing social relationships shape alliance formation in cases of rural insurgency. Alliance formation is crucial in any insurgency, because it is rare that a single social collective has the capacity to independently challenge the state. It is even more important in the rural context, where most insurgency foments, due to the logistical obstacles to mobilizing a sparse population for collective action. Under these circumstances, the alliances forged to contest state authority have an immediate impact on the ability to do so. Yet, we know very little about the modalities linking distinct actors, structures, and objectives. I argue that variation in insurgent alliance formation is heavily influenced by the social structural conduits and constraints formed by local property relations. In order to test this argument, I develop a deductive model that theorizes how insurgent alliances are formed by the interaction between supralocal (political sphere) territorial expansion of centralizing authorities and local (private sphere) property relations in the periphery. The model is tested in nine empirical cases of insurgency in three geographical regions.

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