• Benjamin Lessing Assistant Professor, University of Chicago

    Benjamin Lessing is an Assistant Professor in Political Science at the University of Chicago, where he serves as a CPOST Assistant Director and co-leads the Center on Political Violence with Paul Staniland. He studies “criminal conflict”—organized armed violence involving non-state actors who, unlike revolutionary insurgents, are not trying to topple the state. His doctoral dissertation examines armed conflict between drug cartels and the state in Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil, and recently won the INEGI/UNODC Second International Thesis Contest on Public Security, Victimization, and Justice in Latin America. Additionally, he has studied prison gangs’ pernicious effect on state authority and how paramilitary groups use territorial control to influence electoral outcomes.

    His publications include “When Business Gets Bloody: State Policy and Drug Violence” in Small Arms Survey 2012, and “Tres Mitos Sobre la Guerra del Narco [Three Misconceptions about the Drug War]” in Perspectivas Sobre Desarrollo.

    Dr. Lessing received an MA in economics and a PhD in political science from the University of California, Berkeley. He also holds a BA in economics and philosophy from Kenyon College. He recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) and the Center on International Security and Cooperation (CISAC). Prior to his graduate work, Lessing conducted field research on the small arms trade in Latin America and the Caribbean for numerous international organizations. In addition, he was a Fulbright student grantee in Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay.

  • Paul Staniland Professor, University of Chicago

    Paul Staniland is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, where he also serves as a CPOST Assistant Director and co-leads CPOST's Center on Political Violence with Ben Lessing. He also co-directs the Program on International Security Policy. His research interests are in political violence, international security, and state formation, primarily in South and Southeast Asia. His book, Networks of Rebellion: Explaining Insurgent Cohesion and Collapse, was published by Cornell University Press in 2014. He is currently writing a book on armed politics and the state in post-colonial South Asia. Other work examines foreign security policy in India, empire and its legacies, electoral violence, and the links between war and state building.

    His research has been published in Asian Survey, Civil Wars, Comparative Politics, Comparative Political Studies, Governance, Journal of Conflict Resolution, India Review, International Security, International Studies Quarterly, Perspectives on Politics, Security Studies, and the Washington Quarterly, among others. He has done fieldwork in India, Sri Lanka, Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, and Northern Ireland.