Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2022

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Political Science

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



This dissertation presents a framework for understanding global violent movements, focusing on non-state actors' ideology and mobilization. The core of this work develops and empirically assesses the New "Weapon of the Weak" theory, where "the weak" refers to non-state armed organizations. My central argument is that these organizations strategically put more rhetorical emphasis on their ideological brand in propaganda when they are militarily weaker, using their extreme position as an ideological weapon. I explain and illustrate this argument across three papers. The first paper (Chapter 2) theorizes that violent groups shift on an "extreme vs. moderate" spectrum according to the wax and wane of their military power. I illustrate this dynamic with an original database of 84 magazines published regularly by 38 jihadi groups from 1984 to 2019. The second paper (Chapter 3) further examines the mechanism underlying this theory regarding groups' mobilization needs: Weaker groups must prioritize their core fanatic believers and foreground a more radical ideal, while stronger groups seek broader support from more moderate individuals. Empirically, I leverage approximately 6,000,000 tweets from 21,000 ISIS-related accounts in 2015 and approximately 750,000 tweets from 12,500 white nationalists' accounts from October 2020 to January 2021. The third paper (Chapter 4) explores the conditions on which non-state actors mobilize and shows that state presence triggers violent resistance from local rebels using the novel geo-located data of transportation network and census accuracy. Overall, this dissertation applies machine learning, geospatial analyses, and statistical inference to uncover how violent organizations strategically use propaganda for mobilization and recruitment in pursuit of broader transnational influence, as well as how state governments play a role in these violent movements.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

David B. Carter

Committee Members

Scott Abramson


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Available for download on Thursday, May 20, 2027