Adam McCauley

Contact Information

As a freelance writer, photographer, and videographer, I report on stories of resilience, resistance, and reconciliation. These themes inform my current projects in West/Central Africa and Southeast Asia.

My previous journalistic work focused on individuals and how they dealt with uncertainty. Whether the topic was poverty, development, climate change, or conflict, I looked for compelling personal narratives as entry points.

I am currently based at the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford. Here, I study insurgencies and political violence.

Oxford & London


Current Projects

Insurgent Group Adaptability

My current (doctoral) research asks a set of interrelated questions: How do insurgent groups adapt? Why are some able to adapt better than others? Under what conditions should groups be more capable of adaptation? What does the variation between groups tell us about their wider life-cycles and patterns of survival? While both qualitative and quantitative approaches have generated considerable insights into the conditions under which insurgencies emerge, endure, splinter, and eventually resolve, there are few targeted investigations into how insurgent groups adapt. Further, there is a dearth of focused study on the variation in survival rates for insurgent groups, with models failing to explain how certain insurgencies endure for generations while others disappear in months—particularly given the heterogeneity of insurgent group in each of these categories.

My current work builds an original conceptual and theoretical framework for assessing insurgent adaptability.

Civilian Defense Forces


Are civilians passive observers in domestic conflict? Do locally-organized, armed civilians affect patterns of violence in conflict? What impact does the structure of these local groups have on the behaviours of insurgent and incumbent forces in conflict?  This project argues that the presence or emergence of Civilian Defense Forces (CDFs) have consequences for the study of conflict in the international system, as these groups influence dynamics of violence in intrastate conflicts and patterns of war-time governance.

This project adopts a nested analysis methodology, corrects our definition of CDFs, constructs a theoretical framework that gives agency to civilians’ organization in domestic conflict, provides quantitative findings to highlight general patterns and explores the causal mechanisms that explain CDF impact on dynamics of conflict qualitatively.

My qualitative work explores four case studies: the Philippines, Indonesia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Sudan. Drawing on the substantial literature of civil war and comparative governance studies, the project seeks to explain how local, self-organized armed groups can influence the practices of violence during intra-state conflict.

Data Project(s)

Adaptability, Ideology, and Resilience (AIR) Dataset

The Adaptability, Ideology, and Resilience (AIR) Dataset on Armed Groups and Insurgents aim to quantitatively measure group level variables on ideological strength, leadership, and organizational institutions. The data gathering will use the Non-State Actor Data (NSA) (Cunningham et al 2009) as the master data structure and will enable the new data to be used and merged with a vast collection of existing data sources, using the NAG as the unit of analysis. Starting in 2018, the AIR project will update missing NSA group characteristics for armed groups world-wide since 1945, creating a new extended and comprehensive dataset featuring vital non-material factors.