Unsettled Frontiers: The Rise and Fall of Settler Colonialism
In this book project, I uncover the conditions under which states colonize frontier regions by expelling minorities and settling their lands. I have compiled data on the incidence of ethnic cleansing and settler colonialism from around the world in the late 20th century. I have also collected new sub-national data tracking frontier settlement projects in 20th century China, the former USSR, Indonesia, and Australia.
Rather than be explained by domestic politics or ethno-racial ideologies, I find that patterns of settler colonialism and ethnic cleansing are shaped by the value of frontier territory and the military concerns of states. States tend to colonize strategically important areas in response to conflict: non-natural frontiers and areas populated by "disloyal" minorities.
However, as states develop and cities become magnets for labor, it is increasingly difficult to resettle people to contested frontiers. So, as states urbanize and modernize, I find that they lose the power to colonize frontier areas.
For this reason, all states undergo what I term a colonial transition with modernization — developed states are are both less likely to engage in settler colonialism and less likely to have success when attempting to do so. Settler colonialism is a transitional phase in state building prior to modernization.
A component of this project was recently published in International Organization. For more, please see Research.