We organize Social Inquiry's research into three main thematic areas described below. The aim of our work is to contribute a nuanced and rigorous evidence-base to help in shaping policy and programming that seeks to (re)build civic trust and repair the social fabric within and between groups and groups and the state. In addition to this more applied aim, we also seek to extend discourse and critical analysis on these thematic topics in general across disciplines and actors.


Social Cohesion and Fragility

This is Social Inquiry’s flagship research program, and as such, serves a springboard for much of our thinking and line of questioning as relates to understanding the ties that bind and the forces that pull societies apart. The emphasis here is on unpacking relationships among and between citizens as well as citizens and the state, including new ways to capture these dynamics from in-depth qualitative analysis, large-scale quantitative surveys, and social network analysis, among others. We have carried out research in this regard across conflict-affected Iraq, including Anbar, Baghdad, Dohuk, Erbil, Kirkuk, Ninewa, Salahaddin, and Sulaimaniya governorates with in- and out of camp internally displaced populations, returnees, stayees, and host communities. Our work so far has focused on two broad areas:

  • Intra- and inter-community dynamics in the aftermath of conflict or other social change. Under this rubric we seek to explore how individuals see themselves within their own communities as well as in relation to broader societal structures, particularly in contexts that are evolving due to conflict and/or other upheavals, from migration to changes in political and social norms. This includes understanding competing narratives of victimization and suffering. This work has involved mapping pre-crisis fragility across Iraq as well as exploring in depth the everyday experiences and perceptions of communities, immediately after conflict to present. Such research is the cornerstone for much of our investigation across themes.

  • Durable solutions to internal displacement. Work here examines the myriad factors influencing integration and return of internally displaced populations. We have developed an index exploring the physical and social conditions in conflict-affected areas that help us estimate the likelihood of population returns taking place. We also have explored the individual and place factors that drive integration for displaced people not aiming to return, from the perspectives of both the displaced and their host communities. Further work in this line seeks to explore mental health of displaced populations, secondary displacement, the political economy of internal displacement, information flows between displaced and returning populations, and the achievement of more complex durable solutions, particularly in relation to redress and reconciliation of displacement-linked violations.


Reconciliation and Transitional Justice

A critical aspect to understanding current relationships at both micro- and macro-levels is to put them into historical context and examine the ways in which structural legacies of violence and/or repression manifest themselves at present. This influences how people view their identities, how they fit into their communities and societies at large, and the trust they have in each other and the state. Such knowledge provides a fuller picture of fragility helping to identifying ways forward toward more just and equitable societies, both at the grass-roots and institutional levels. Specific focus has centered on the conflict-affected governorates of Diyala, Kirkuk, and Ninewa. Our work here seeks to explore more in-depth understanding of group narratives of conflict and formal and informal responses to them through the following dimensions, again using a combination of study design and data collection methods:

  • Current and underlying drivers of cohesion and conflict. One of the key methods by which we have explored this includes a large-scale set of measurable indicators that evaluate conflict drivers within and between groups as well as perceptions of institutional performance, in particularly diverse areas (reconstruction, peacebuilding, protection, etc.). These indicators help in uncovering current and root causes of divisions as well as changes in perception over time.

  • Mechanisms to address grievances at micro- and macro-levels including in relation to post-conflict governance. Emerging field of study linked to social and political dynamics of redressing violations, neglect, and exclusion, again at grass-roots and more institutional levels. This includes mechanisms by which communities seek reconciliation and justice, including but not limited to criminal accountability and local and national narratives of history, memory, and victimization. Additional work has focused on how people understand root causes of violence and extremism and their manifestations.


Post-Conflict Political Economy

Social Inquiry’s newest program builds on the above two, focusing more specifically on the impacts conflict and other upheavals have on economic relationships and people’s vulnerability. The emphasis is also on understanding baseline inequalities and more structural neglect that can further influence fragile economic ecosystems.  Initial work here includes an analysis of resource flows (beyond aid) of displaced, returning, and remaining populations during and after conflict; mapping trajectories of agricultural and small business revival in post-conflict locations; understanding views of new vulnerabilities and impacts of cash programming in areas of recent return; and the impacts of current climate change and legacies of politically-motivated environmental degradation on traditional agricultural economies. Our geographical focus has included Anbar, Ninewa, Salahaddin and the southern governorates of  Basra and Thi-Qar.