Online Exhibits@Yale

"Conflict Research: Civil Wars and Insurgencies in the Middle East and Africa" by Miranda Melcher

Boko Haram Areas of Operation: 2014-2015. Detail of map.

“Boko Haram Areas of Operation: 2014-2015” Custom map created by Abraham Parrish, Miranda Melcher, Whitney Boone, and Aisha Pasha. April, 2015.

I am a political science major and my research focuses on civil wars in the Middle East and Africa. I’ve long been fascinated by these conflicts and, in the last three years, figuring out where my specific interests lie has been an engaging process. 

I grew up in Beijing, China, so my language skills and learned-through-osmosis knowledge pointed me East. I began by looking at China’s connections, historical and current, with the Middle East and Africa. My research on China’s connections with Israel and Palestine is one example of this research. 

My attention then turned to civil wars, and in particular, comparing civil war case studies. Among other cases, I have compared the wars in Syria and Libya, and why Syria’s conflict has attracted so many foreign fighters to its war. Although the two conflicts are very similar in many ways, this is a major and interesting difference between the two wars. 

Aside from comparisons of civil wars, I also study insurgencies in the Middle East and Africa, including Nigeria’s Boko Haram. Although the group has been fighting only in Nigeria for years, recent developments show a likelihood of transnational expansion. Groups like Boko Haram, ISIS, and al-Shabaab are fascinating in how they work to combine terrorism with attempts at governance, within rather inhospitable areas.

Overall, my research is developing into a body of work looking at unexplained, unexpected, and under-researched aspects about conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, and sometimes also at how China gets involved with them.

"Conflict Research: Civil Wars and Insurgencies in the Middle East and Africa" by Miranda Melcher