Research Interests: My research addresses the geography and dynamics of internal conflict and violence related to refugee populations and forced migration, and the implications of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, drones) for foreign policy, international security, and individual attitudes regarding the use of force.

I am a Senior Resesarcher at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). I’m currently working on two projects:

  • TRUST: Attitudinal Impacts of Refugees on Host Communities in the Global South (link).
  • CONMIG: Geographies of Conflict-Induced Migration (link)

Journal Articles Chapters Books Dataset

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles:

Fisk, Kerstin. 2021. “Plausible deniability? An investigation of government and government-outsourced violence in refugee hosting areas.” International Interactions 47(2): 191-220.

This paper examines the propensity for host governments and the groups they sposor to engage in violence in areas that host refugee populations. Drawing on arguments that governments strategically delegate violence to affiliated groups for “plausible deniability” purposes, it argues that, due to concerns over self-settled refugees’ welfare burden as well as the concern that these refugees will choose to live in border areas that are more vulnerable to (or useful for) militant activity, host governments, and their proxies are likely to target violence in areas with more substantial refugee self-settlement. At the same time, it anticipates that host governments will “outsource” this violence to surrogate groups where sizable camp-settled populations are present, due to a heightened risk of suffering international audience costs. Findings from a large-N sample of countries in Africa provide some evidence of the hypothesized outsourcing effect. While the presence of sizable camps alongside large self-settled populations is associated with a reduction in the likelihood of violence by host governments, it significantly increases the likelihood of violence committed by host-aligned proxies.

Fisk, Kerstin. 2019. “Camp Settlement and Communal Conflict in sub-Saharan Africa.” Journal of Peace Research, 56(1): 58-72.

Are areas that host encamped refugees more likely to experience communal conflict, and under what conditions? Building on insights from the refugee studies literature suggesting that settling refugees in camps can intensify intercommunal tension in host communities, this article investigates the effect of refugee encampment on the occurrence of communal conflict at the subnational level in sub-Saharan Africa. It first tests for a general relationship between the overall presence and population intensity of encamped refugees and communal conflict before assessing whether this relationship is moderated by local-level characteristics, including interethnic linkages and political and economic marginalization within the host region. The basic findings show that communal conflict occurs more frequently in regions where refugees are camp-settled. Tests for interactive effects indicate that refugee camps have a significant marginal effect on conflict only if they are located in areas with politically marginalized host groups. Origin country/host region ethnic ties are shown to exert significant moderating effects. Moreover, results from an extended set of analyses show that the form of refugee settlement matters, as the presence and population intensity of self-settled refugees are related to decreases in the occurrence of communal conflict.

Fisk, Kerstin, Jennifer L. Merolla, and Jennifer M. Ramos. “Emotions, Terrorist Threat, and Drones: Anger Drives Support for Drone Strikes.” Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming.

In this article, we investigate how threat perceptions and emotions can jointly impact individuals’ attitudes toward drone strikes. We argue that conditions of threat can increase public support for the use of drone strikes. We further contend that the effect of threat perceptions on support for drone strikes is mediated by negative, emotional reactions, particularly anger. We test our arguments in France, the United States, and Turkey using data generated from nationally representative online surveys, in which individuals were randomly assigned to a control group, a condition in which they read about terrorist threat (with or without a reminder of democratic values), or a condition in which they read about economic threats. Our findings have implications for long-standing notions about the roles of rational calculations and psychological processes in influencing support for aggressive foreign policy.

Fisk, Kerstin. 2018. “One-sided Violence in Refugee-hosting Areas.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 62(3): 529-556. 

Previous research demonstrates that refugee populations can threaten the security of receiving countries. This study, in contrast, seeks to examine the physical security challenges refugees face in host states. It utilizes a new, geographically referenced data set on sub-country refugee demographics to test the hypothesis that locations home to larger refugee populations are more likely to experience one-sided attacks by conflict actors. Results demonstrate that refugee accommodation is a significant predictor of one-sided violence. In particular, combatants commit significantly more acts of violence against civilians in locations home to larger numbers of self-settled refugees compared to other locations. These findings suggest that scholars and practitioners account for possible dangers presented by refugee flows and threats to refugees simultaneously.

Fisk, Kerstin. 2014. “Refugee Geography and the Diffusion of Armed Conflict in Africa.” Civil Wars 16(3): 255-275.

Why are refugee populations often associated with the spread of armed conflict? Do refugees upset local dynamics, for instance by increasing the mobilization opportunities of would-be rebels? Past work on rebel motivation predicts that the strategic impact of a location influences armed actors’ decisions to fight there; thus, I identify two strategic aspects of refugee geography which may influence the occurrence of local level conflict events – refugee population size and accommodation type (camp-settlement compared to self-settlement). I examine the influence of these factors using a new, disaggregated dataset on refugees in 466 first-level administrative units across 26 African countries that experienced armed conflict during the period 2000–2010. The findings show that refugee population size and how refugees are accommodated in a location are, by and large, unrelated to the occurrence of armed conflict events involving rebel groups and governments.

Fisk, Kerstin and Jennifer M. Ramos. 2014. “Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Preventive Self-Defense as a Cascading Norm.”  International Studies Perspectives 15(2): 163-185.

How and to what extent is the preventive use of force becoming the future of foreign policy for states around the world? We explore the spread of preventive logic to increasing numbers of states and examine the degree to which an international norm toward preventive self-defense is cascading in the international system. Through content and comparative case study analysis, we investigate leaders’ rhetoric and security policies concerning what we theorize is the key indicator of a country’s emulation of the United States: assertion of the right to the unilateral, preventive use of force outside of its borders. Our evidence indicates that there has been a shift away from the established international norm—which considers the use of preventive force illegal and illegitimate—toward growing acceptance of unilateral preventive strategies, a shift largely propelled by the precedents set by the United States in the war in Iraq and its use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) in the war on terror.

Peer-Reviewed Chapters

Fisk, Kerstin. 2020. “Forced Migration and Political Violence.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Oxford University Press.

Fisk, Kerstin. 2019. “Out of the Fire, Into the Frying Pan? An Analysis of Anti-Refugee Violence in Africa.” In Heather Smith-Cannoy (ed.), Emerging Threats to Human Rights: Resources, Violence, and Deprivation of Citizenship. Temple University Press. 

Fisk, Kerstin and Jennifer M. Ramos. 2018. “Making the World Safe for Preventive Force.” In Daniel R. Brunstetter and Jean-Vincent Holeindre (eds.), The Ethics of War and Peace Revisited: Moral Challenges in an Era of Contested and Fragmented Sovereignty. Georgetown University Press.

Edited VolumeRamos_CVR_Final.indd

Fisk, Kerstin and Jennifer M. Ramos. 2016. Preventive Force: Drones, Targeted Killing, and the Transformation of Contemporary Warfare. NYU Press.

Book Chapters:
  • Fisk, Kerstin. “Out of the Fire, Into the Frying Pan? An Analysis of Anti-Refugee Violence in Africa.” In Heather Smith-Cannoy (ed.), Emerging Threats to Human Rights: Resources, Violence, and Deprivation of Citizenship. Temple University Press, forthcoming.
  • Fisk, Kerstin and Jennifer M. Ramos. 2018. “Making the World Safe for Preventive Force.” In Daniel R. Brunstetter and Jean-Vincent Holeindre (eds.), The Ethics of War and Peace Revisited: Moral Challenges in an Era of Contested and Fragmented Sovereignty. Georgetown University Press.


The Geo-Refugee Dataset

The Geo-Refugee Dataset provides information on refugee locations and demographics throughout Africa for the years 2000 to 2010. Each refugee location is coded at the first administrative level (province, region or state) with corresponding geographic coordinates and information on population mass and accommodation type (in camps or centers or dispersed).