James Fearon is on every international relations syllabus. He is a professor at Stanford and widely known for his research into conflict and war. He uses game theory to explain the outbreak of international conflict, and along with his colleague David Laitin he’s undertaken groundbreaking research into the structural factors that make the outbreak of civil war more likely.

Fearon discusses his research and career path, which started in Kenya in the early 1980s and he eventually led to a PHD program at Berkeley where he studied under one of the great IR theorists of all time, Kenneth Waltz.This conversation is pretty laden with international relations theory, but I did my best to keep it accessible to non-experts as well. Even if you have just a passing interest in IR you will still gain a lot from this conversation. We start off with a conversation about Iraq and Syria, and end with a topic of particular interest to UN Dispatch readers: the problem of data quality around women and girls in the developing world.

IR nerds will love this episode. As will anyone who craves a deeper understanding of the structural forces that drive peace and conflict. Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher or get the app to listen later.

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