Book Project

Pathways to Self-Rule: Occupation, Resistance, and State-Building in Palestine and Timor-Leste

National movements seeking statehood today face a thorny challenge – they must form in a populated territory that is already controlled by an existing state. My book project posits that this basic condition will affect where, among whom, and to what extent national movements seeking statehood can develop state-like capacity. Field research for this project was supported by the United States Institute of Peace, the Rackham Graduate School at the University of Michigan, and the Project on Middle East Political Science.

My motivating case is the West Bank in the Palestinian Territories. When the Oslo Accords created the Palestinian Authority in 1994, it introduced geographic variation in Palestinian control over policing across the West Bank. This provides an opportunity to test the hypothesis, supported by existing literature on state formation and state capacity, that the coercive and fiscal capacities of the state grow together. I draw on elite interviews; geo-referenced data on variation in Palestinian policing autonomy; an original, panel dataset on municipal revenues in 107 West Bank towns; and local election data to show that greater Palestinian control over internal policing – which is effectively consolidated under the ruling party, Fatah – only enhances local revenues in towns governed by the opposition party, Hamas. I discuss two possible mechanisms, ultimately suggesting that increased repression of Hamas in areas of higher PA policing authority may drive higher compliance with Hamas-led extraction. These findings suggest that the de jure and de facto restriction of Palestinian coercive institutions to policing internal, rather than external, threats may be further fracturing the national movement and undermining the state-building project.

Where else might we observe such distortions in the relationship between coercive and fiscal capacity development? To address this question, I develop a simple typology of regions of contested statehood which classifies regions according to two dimensions: first, the goals of the “incumbent state” (Mampilly 2011) in the region, and second, the degree of self-rule, or governing autonomy, exercised by the national movement. Through a medium-N analysis of contested regions drawing from the UCDP/PRIO Armed Conflict Dataset, I find that incumbent state type is correlated with the extent of self-governing autonomy granted to the competing national movement.

For national movements that experience no autonomy under occupation, do we witness similar distortions in the relationship between different forms of state capacity development? My second empirical case is the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, which recently gained full independence following 24 years of Indonesian occupation. In Timor-Leste, I explore how Indonesia’s strategy during occupation and the legacies of resistance have shaped attitudes toward taxation, examining both regional and individual-level factors. Using data from a nationally representative survey (N = 1,243) conducted in collaboration with The Asia Foundation in 2016, I look at whether the coercive control of the state is associated with attitudes toward taxation. Unlike the Palestinian case, I find that tax morale is lower in areas where the state has less coercive capacity, conforming with the positive relationship between state coercive and fiscal capacity expected in the literature. I also examine how conflict-related state benefits, including a veterans’ pension program, are associated with attitudes toward state extraction.