Introducing the Nonviolent Action in Violent Contexts (NVAVC) dataset


Scholarship on civil war is overwhelmingly preoccupied with armed activity. Data collection efforts on actors in civil wars tend to reflect this emphasis, with most studies focusing on the identities, attributes, and violent behavior of armed actors. Yet various actors also use nonviolent methods to shape the intensity and variation of violence as well as the duration of peace in the aftermath. Existing datasets on mobilization by non-state actors – such as the Armed Conflict Events and Location (ACLED), Integrated Conflict Early Warning System (ICEWS), and Social Conflict Analysis Database (SCAD) – tend to include data on manifest contentious acts, such as protests, strikes, and demonstrations, and exclude activities like organizing, planning, training, negotiations, communications, and capacity-building that may be critical to the actors’ ultimate success. To provide a more comprehensive and reliable view of the landscape of possible nonviolent behaviors involved in civil wars, we present the Nonviolent Action in Violent Contexts (NVAVC) dataset, which identifies 3,662 nonviolent actions during civil wars in Africa between 1990 and 2012, across 124 conflict-years in 17 countries. In this article, we describe the data collection process, discuss the information contained therein, and offer descriptive statistics and discuss spatial patterns. The framework we develop provides a powerful tool for future researchers to use to categorize various types of nonviolent action, and the data we collect provide important evidence that such efforts are worthwhile.