All images from "Rama and Sita: A Tale from Ancient Java Retold and Illustrated by David Weitzman" 2002.  Reproduced with the author's permission.
Ravi Bhavnani is a Professor in the International Relations & Political Science Department at the Graduate Institute. His research explores the micro-foundations of violent conflict by means of agent-based computational modeling and disaggregated empirical analysis. More specifically, his work examines the endogenous relationships among: (i) the characteristics, beliefs, and interests of relevant actors; (ii) social mechanisms and emergent social structures that shape attitudes, decision-making and behavior; and (iii) patterns of conflict and violence. 


The challenge of mapping outcomes to precipitating factors in systems characterized by non-linear behavior calls for methodological innovation. Agent-based models (ABM) make it possible to represent heterogeneous agents at different scales and exhibiting diverse decision-making rules or heuristics, to simulate learning and adaptive behavior, and specify spatial and social interaction topologies. These are perhaps some of the fundamental reasons why ABM are capable of replicating emergent phenomena commonly exhibited by complex adaptive systems. By using ABM to link theoretical conjectures to concrete empirical evidence, thereby identifying mechanisms and processes that tend to generate specific outcomes, Bhavnani’s work has defined an original program for studying violence at the micro-level. 

Bhavnani is a member of the Graduate Institute's Centre for Finance and Development and the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy.  He serves as a reviewer for numerous journals, including the African Studies Review, American Journal of Political Science, American Political Science Review, British Journal of Political Science, Complexity, Comparative Politics, International Organisation, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Peace Research, Journal of Politics, Nature, Perspectives on Politics, and World Politics.  He also serves as a reviewer for numerous funding agencies, including the U.S National Science Foundation, Fonds National Suisse de la Recherche Scientifique, Agence Nationale de la Recherche (France), The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Swedish Research Council.

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( 02 )


Spatio-temporal Variation in Violence

  • Scale, intensity and duration

  • Individual and collective participation

  • Non-linear dynamics

  • Endogeneity

Intergroup Dynamics

  • Spatial segregation

  • Social distance

  • Learning and mimicry

  • Rumors and other forms of (dis)information

Intragroup Dynamics

  • Individual beliefs, preferences and behavior

  • Social identity complexity

  • Group formation, cohesion and fragmentation

Urban Questions

  • Cities as conflict zones, Cities in conflict zones

  • Fractured spaces and crime

  • Urban topography

Complex Adaptive Systems

  • Agent-based models

  • Self-organization

  • Emergence

  • Evolutionary algorithms

  • Empirical calibration


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The Morphology of Urban Conflict

2019. Bhavnani, R. and M. Reul

Global Challenges: New Grammars of War: Conflict and Violence in the 21st Century

Issue no. 5 (April).

  [  article  ]

Abbreviated Version Published in:

GLOBE: Graduate Institute Review 23 (Spring): 22-23

  [  article  ]

Notes and Advice for Evidence-Driven Computational Modeling Projects

  2019.  Bhavnani, R., K. Donnay and M. Reul

  In R. Franzese and L. Curini (eds.) Sage Handbook of Research Methods in Political Science & International Relations. Sage

  [  forthcoming  ]

Peace and Conflict 2018

  2018.  Backer, D., R. Bhavnani, and P. Huth (eds.)

  New York: Routledge

  [  forthcoming  ]

Simulation and ABM in Foreign Policy

  2017.  Bhavnani, R. and D. Sylvan

  Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Oxford University Press

  [  chapter  ]


Peace and Conflict 2017

  2017. Backer, D., R. Bhavnani, and P. Huth (eds.)

  New York: Routledge

  [  book  ]

Generalizing Findings from Micro-Level Research on Peace and Conflict

  2017.  Donnay, K., A. Linke and R. Bhavnani

  In D. Backer, R. Bhavnani, and P. Huth (eds.) Peace and Conflict. Routledge

  [  chapter  ]


Peace and Conflict 2016

  2016.  Backer, D., R. Bhavnani, and P. Huth (eds.)

  New York: Routledge

  [  book  ]


The Cutting Edge of Research on Peace and Conflict

  2016.  Donnay, K. and R. Bhavnani

  In D. Backer, R. Bhavnani, and P. Huth (eds.) Peace and Conflict. Routledge

  [  chapter  ]


Voting Intentions in Africa: Ethnic, Economic or Partisan?

  2016.  Bratton, M., R. Bhavnani and T. Chen

  In N. Cheeseman (ed.) African Politics: Critical Concepts in Political Science. Routledge

  [  chapter  ] 

Disaggregating Conflict by Actors, Time and Location

  2014.  Donnay, K., E. Gadjanova and R. Bhavnani

  In D. Backer, J. Wilkenfeld, and P. Huth (eds.) Peace and Conflict. Paradigm Publishers

  [  chapter  ]

Group Segregation and Urban Violence 

  2014.  Bhavnani, R., K. Donnay, D. Miodownik, M. Mor & D. Helbing . 

  American Journal of Political Science  58:1 (January): 226–245

 paper  |  appendix |  award


Voting Intentions in Africa: Ethnic, Economic or Partisan?

  2013.  Bratton, M., R. Bhavnani and T. Chen

   In M. Bratton (ed.) Voting and Democratic Citizenship in Africa. Lynne Rienner Publishers

  [  chapter  ] 

Modeling Civil Violence in Afghanistan: Ethnic Geography, Control & Collaboration

  2012.  Bhavnani, R. and H. Choi

  Complexity  17:6 (July/August): 42-51 

  [  paper  ]


Here’s Looking at You: The Arab Spring and Violence in Gaza, Israel & the West Bank

  2012.  Bhavnani, R. and K. Donnay

  Swiss Political Science Review  18:1 (March): 124–131

  [  paper  ]


Voting Intentions in Africa: Ethnic, Economic or Partisan?

  2012.  Bratton, M., R. Bhavnani and T. Chen

  Commonwealth and Comparative Politics  50:1 (February): 27-52

  [ paper  |  appendix  ]


Ethnic Minority Rule & Civil War Onset

  2011.  Miodownik, D. and R. Bhavnani

  Conflict Management and Peace Science  28:5 (November): 438-458

  [  paper  ]


Violence and Control in Civil Conflict: Israel, the West Bank & Gaza

  2011.  Bhavnani, R., D. Miodownik and H. Choi

  Comparative Politics  44:1 (October): 61-80 

  [  paper  ]


Transnational Ethnic Ties and the Incidence of Minority Rule in Rwanda & Burundi

  2011.  Bhavnani, R. and J. Lavery

  Nationalism and Ethnic Politics  17:3 (August): 231-256 

  [  paper  |  appendix  ]


Three Two Tango: Territorial Control and Selective Violence in Israel, the West Bank & Gaza

  2011.  Bhavnani, R., D. Miodownik and H. Choi

  Journal of Conflict Resolution  55:1 (February): 133-158

  [  paper  |  appendix  ]


Between Replication and Docking

  2010.  Miodownik, D., B. Cartrite and R. Bhavnani

  Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation  13:3 (June)

  [  paper  ]

Macro- and Micro-Level Theories of Violence in Ethnic and Non-Ethnic Civil Wars

  2010.  Bhavnani, R. and D. Miodownik

  In Tor Jacobson (ed.) Causes of War: An Introduction to Theories Behind Warfare and Collective Violence. Nova Science Publishers

  [  chapter  ] 

Computational Models of Ethnic Violence
  2010.  Bhavnani, R., R. Riolo and D. Miodownik

  In A, Kott and G. Citrenbaum (eds.) Estimating Impact. Springer
  [  chapter  ]

Rumor Dynamics in Ethnic Violence  
  2009.  Bhavnani, R., M. Findley and J. Kuklinski

  Journal of Politics  71:3 (July): 876-892
  [  paper  |  appendix  ]

Ethnic Polarization, Ethnic Salience and Civil War
2009.  Bhavnani, R. and D. Miodownik

  Journal of Conflict Resolution  53:1 (February): 30-49
  [  paper  ]

Scarcity, Abundance, and Conflict: A Complex New World

  2009.  Bhavnani, R

  Whitehead Journal of International Diplomacy  10: 2 (Summer/Fall): 19-34
  [  paper  ]

Simulating Closed Regimes with Agent Based Models
2008.  Bhavnani, R., R. Riolo and D. Backer

  Complexity  14:1 (September/October): 36-44
  [  paper  ]​

REsCape: An Agent-Based Framework for Modeling Resources, Ethnicity and Conflict
2008.  Bhavnani, R., D. Miodownik and J. Nart

  Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation  11:2 (March)
  [  paper  ]

Ethnic Norms and Interethnic Violence
2006.  Bhavnani, R

  Journal of Peace Research  43:6 (November): 651-669
  [  paper  ]​

Agent Based Models in the Study of Ethnic Norms and Interethnic Violence 

  2006.  Bhavnani, R. In Neil Harrison (ed.) 

  Complexity in World Politics: Concepts and Methods of a New Paradigm. SUNY Press 

  [  chapter  ] 

Diamonds, Blood, and Taxes

  2005.  Snyder, R. and R. Bhavnani

  Journal of Conflict Resolution  49:4 (August): 563-597
  [  paper  ]​

Adaptive Agents, Political Institutions and Civic Traditions in Modern Italy
2003.  Bhavnani, R

  Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation  6:4 (October)
  [  paper  ]

Announcement, Credibility, and Turnout in Popular Rebellions
2003.  Bhavnani, R. and M. Ross

  Journal of Conflict Resolution  47:3 (June): 340-366 
  [  paper  ] 


Localized Ethnic Conflict and Genocide: Accounting for Differences in Rwanda and Burundi
2000.  Bhavnani, R. and D. Backer

  Journal of Conflict Resolution  44:3 (June): 283-307
  [  paper  ]


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Voting Intentions in Africa: Ethnic, Economic or Partisan? 

  2011.  Bratton, M., R. Bhavnani and T. Chen.

  Afrobarometer Working Paper  No. 127 

  [  paper  ]​

​Social Capital and Political Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa
  2007.  Bhavnani, R. and D. Backer.

  Afrobarometer Working Paper  No. 90
  [  paper  ]​​​


A Hybrid Model of Decision-Making in Closed Political Regimes
2002.  Bhavnani, R., R. Riolo and D. Backer.

  Social Agents: Ecology, Exchange, and Evolution. Gleacher Center, University of Chicago, October 11-12
  [  paper  ]

Localized Ethnic Conflict and Genocide: Accounting for Differences
1999.  Bhavnani, R. and D. Backer.

  Santa Fe Institute Working Paper  99-07-053
  [  paper  ]


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​​​Modelling Early Risk Indicators to Anticipate Malnutrition



Action Against Hunger (ACF)

University of Maryland (UMD)

Graduate Institute of International & Development Studies (IHEID)

Johns Hopkins University (JHU)

​It is no coincidence that fragile and conflict-affected states have some of the highest rates of hunger, child undernutrition and child mortality in the world today (UNICEF 2011). Despite progress in strengthening early warning systems for food insecurity, current approaches to detect declines in nutritional status still tend to be ‘late’ warning systems, reliant upon indicators such as the prevalence of moderate and severe acute malnutrition, which are only able to detect a nutrition crisis after it has already begun. Therefore, a shift to preventative actions will require a shift in the way we conceptualise nutrition security, forecast nutrition-related vulnerabilities at a relatively local level, identify the causal factors driving nutritional deterioration, and design nutrition-sensitive services that mitigate the impact of shocks on households and communities. While previous efforts to predict increases in nutritional risk have been limited by the quality, availability and frequency of data collection, especially at sub-national levels, the on-going data revolution provides a compelling stimulus to avoid the past challenges to accelerate reductions in undernutrition and build nutritional resilience to shocks in fragile contexts. The central aim of the Modelling Early Risk Indicators to Anticipate Malnutrition (MERIAM) project is to do just that – to identify, test and scale up cost-effective means to improve the prediction and monitoring of undernutrition in difficult contexts, in such a way that it enables an effective response to manage and mitigate nutritional risk. 


Exploring Diversity and Symmetry in Intergroup Contact


Ravi Bhavnani

Sharon Barnhardt

Pavan Mamadi

The project, currently in the inception phase, is based at

FLAME University/ Nuffield Center for Experimental Social Science. 


Aiding Resilience? The Impact of Foreign Assistance on the Dynamics of Intrastate Armed Conflict


PI's: Paul Huth, David Backer & Kevin Jones, University of Maryland

Center for International Development and Conflict Management UMD

Center for International Security Studies UMD

Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies

College of William & Mary

Award:  $2,549,460.

This project addresses a set of fundamental issues linking security and development: Does foreign assistance affect resilience to intrastate armed conflict—and if so, where, when, and how? Existing scholarship typically approaches those questions from a country-level perspective, often treating aid in an undifferentiated manner, narrowly examining certain aspects of conflict, and thus remaining remote from investigating causal mechanisms that could plausibly affect the dynamics of violence. Recent studies have begun to delve into these relationships in a more nuanced manner, looking at patterns within countries and offering evidence that the scale and protection of aid matters. Yet these analyses focus on small numbers of countries, exhibiting active conflict, and specific forms of aid.​ The proposed research extends the scope considerably by evaluating the association between development aid and the likelihood, escalation, severity, spread, duration, and recurrence of violence, spanning the phases before, during, and after conflict. The research design constructively combines cross-national, subnational, and micro-level empirical analysis. The results will be integrated into simulations using computational modeling, to further probe aid-conflict dynamics and “what-if” counterfactuals. A distinctive advance is to employ a sizeable array of cutting-edge disaggregated data for most of Africa as well as select Asian and Latin American countries. These geocoded data, which are due to be expanded significantly through this project, permit extensive quantitative assessment that is finer-grained spatially and temporally, plus considers notable parameters of both aid disbursements and conflict events.

Peace & Conflict


Edited by 


David A. Backer

Ravi Bhavnani

Paul K. Huth

Peace and Conflict 2016-18 is the result of a new collaboration between the Graduate Institute and the Center for International Development and Conflict Management (CIDCM) at the University of Maryland (USA) which brings together two of the leading centres for policy-relevant research on conflict, peacebuilding and associated topics. The Peace and Conflict series, which has been edited by CIDCM since 2001, will be re-launched in partnership with the Graduate Institute in April 2016 as an annual edition published by Routledge. Peace and Conflict analyses conflicts, political violence, upheaval and corresponding peacebuilding activities, examining patterns and trends as well as future risks of political and social instability. It aims to provide insight which can be integrated into the planning cycles of government ministries and international NGOs, and which can be used in academic courses. Over 30 experts from leading academic institutions in Europe and the US have contributed to Peace and Conflict 2016, providing research into armed conflict, the geography of events, violence against civilians, the role of non-state actors, and the relationships between democracy, ethnic exclusion and civil conflict. Additional research highlights the emergence of deadly Islamic groups and the transition in defense spending, arms production and transfers. The edition also covers intrastate peace agreements, state repression, and the relationship between foreign aid and conflict. Also included are the latest results of CIDCM’s Peace and Conflict Instability Ledger, a forecast of the risks of large-scale political and social instability.

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