UCSB Latin American and Iberian Studies Program

Kai Thaler

Assistant Professor
Global Studies
Conflict and Violence | African and Latin American Politics

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Conflict and violence, civil wars, state building, genocide and mass killing, development, African and Latin American politics


Ph.D. in Government, Harvard University
M.A. in Government, Harvard University
M.Soc.Sc. in Sociology, University of Cape Town
B.A. in Political Science, Yale University


Kai M. Thaler is an Assistant Professor of Global Studies. He received his Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University in 2018. He also holds an M.A. in Government from Harvard, an M.Soc.Sc. in Sociology from the University of Cape Town, and a B.A. in Political Science from Yale University. Thaler’s research focuses on conflict and violence from the local to the global level. He has studied issues ranging from violence against civilians in civil wars and post-conflict politics in Africa and Latin America, to violent crime in South Africa, to genocide and mass killing in Southeast Asia. His current book project, When the Rebels Win: State Power and Public Interests after Civil Wars, examines how the ideals and goals around which rebel groups are organized affect the state building and service provision policies and practices they pursue if they gain control of an internationally-recognized state. Thaler also has research and teaching interests in qualitative and mixed methods research methodology.

Prior to his Ph.D., Thaler was a research design and coordination consultant for Handicap International for work on armed violence-related disabilities in Colombia, Haiti, Pakistan, and Uganda; a researcher at the Centre for Social Science Research at the University of Cape Town for a study of everyday violence in South Africa; and a DGARQ/FLAD Research Fellow at the Portuguese national archives, where he studied reports of rebel violence against civilians in Angola and Mozambique in the archives of the Portuguese colonial secret police.

During the 2018-2019 academic year, he will be on leave as a postdoctoral fellow at the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies.


2018. “Mixed Methods in the Study of Violence,” in Walter DeKeseredy, Callie Rennison, and Amanda Sanchez (eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of Violence Studies, chapter 2 (New York: Routledge).

2018. “Has Liberia Turned a Corner?” Journal of Democracy 29(3): 156-170 (with Benjamin Spatz).

2018. “U.S. Action and Inaction in the Massacre of Communists and Alleged Communists in Indonesia,” in Samuel Totten (ed.), Dirty Hands and Vicious Deeds: The US Government’s Complicity in Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide, pp.23-69 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press).

2017. “Nicaragua: A Return to Caudillismo.” Journal of Democracy 28(2): 157-169.

2017. “Mixed Methods Research in the Study of Political and Social Violence and Conflict.” Journal of Mixed Methods Research 11(1): 59-76.

2016. “Dynamique et diversité des armées africaines: État des connaissances.” Afrique Contemporaine 2016/4(260): 27-44 (with Jason Warner).

2014. “Socioeconomic Conditions and Violence in Cape Town, South Africa.” Economics of Peace and Security 9(2): 34-42 (with Jeremy Seekings).

2013. “Brazil, Biofuels, and Food Security in Mozambique,” in Renu Modi and Fantu Cheru (eds.), Agricultural Development and Food Security in Africa: The Impact of Chinese, Indian and Brazilian Investments, pp.145-158 (London: Zed Books).

2012. “Ideology and Violence in Civil Wars: Theory and Evidence from Mozambique and Angola.” Civil Wars 14(4): 546-567.

2012. “Foreshadowing Future Slaughter: From the Indonesian Killings of 1965-66 to Genocide in East Timor.” Genocide Studies and Prevention 7(2/3): 204-222.

2009. “Avoiding the Abyss: Finding a Way Forward in Guinea-Bissau.” Portuguese Journal of International Affairs 1(2): 3-14.