POEMA ─ Study of Ex-combatants in Angola (Tilman Brück)

Military service in armed conflict strongly marks the lives of millions of young people across the world. In the post-conflict period, ex-combatants’ trajectories are key elements in the transformation of the conflict-affected state, where former fighters are often considered a primary threat to stability, cohesion and development. Co-funded by FCT and the United States Institute of Peace, the objective of POEMA is to contribute to understanding what young men experience as soldiers in armed conflict and how these experiences causally shape their social and political behaviors in the long run.

POEMA combines quantitative and qualitative research to study the social and political behavior of Angolan Civil War veterans and to identify and quantify causal long run impacts of individual-level exposure to armed group policies and practices. The quantitative component relies on primary survey data from 800 Angolan war veterans from 34 different localities in Huambo province and, methodologically, treats the Angolan war as a natural experiment. The survey dataset documents detailed information on war and military service experiences, pre-service background and post-war social and political behaviors twelve years after the end of the war. The anthropological companion study included one year of ethnographic fieldwork preceding the survey. Qualitative findings were used to assess the validity the quantitative hypotheses, determine their relevance in the local context, refine the survey questionnaire design, interpret quantitative results and explore underlying mechanisms.

The project contributes to understanding long-run, individual level origins of human behavior and the conduct and consequences of armed conflict. Preliminary findings suggest that both malign and benign forms of armed group governance have strong and lasting behavioral impacts at the individual level, including on domestic violence in the families of the ex-combatants. The findings will help post-conflict policymakers to understand, account for, and leverage variation in individual post-conflict behavior, and to build more cooperative and less violent societies.


Project team

Tilman Brück (PI)

Patricia Justino

John Spall (Qualitative Research Officer)

Wolfgang Stojetz (Quantitative Research Officer)

Pedro Vicente

Local partner: Development Workshop Angola





Project-related publications


Spall, J. (2017). “I say ‘thanks be to God’, and I carry on”: churches as a haven from politics for Angolan war veterans. Working paper

Stojetz, W. and Brück, T. (2017). The War in Your Head: On the Individual-level Origins of Domestic Violence. Working paper

Stojetz, W. and Justino, P. (2017). On the Legacies of Wartime Governance. Working paper

Brück, T., Justino, P., Verwimp, P., Avdeenko, A. and Tedesco, A. (2016). Measuring Violent Conflict in Micro-level Surveys: Current Practices and Methodological Challenges. World Bank Research Observer, 31(1), 29-58.

Spall, J. (2016). The Moral Economy of Consumption, Social Mobility and Masculinity amongst Angolan War Veterans. Development and Change, conditionally accepted for publication

Spall, J. (2016). Fatherhood and intergenerational struggles in the construction of masculinities in Huambo, Angola. In: Masculinities under Neoliberalism, edited by Andrea Cornwall, Nancy Lindisfarne and Frank Karioris, 151-165, Zed Books London.

Stojetz, W. (2016). Rebel without a Cause? Wartime Recruitment and Institutional Capacity. Working paper

Stojetz, W. (2016). War and Behavior: Evidence from Angolan Civil War Veterans. Ph.D. thesis, Department of Economics, Humboldt University of Berlin.

Spall, J. (2015). The Ethics of Manhood in Post-war Huambo, Angola. Ph.D. thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Sussex.

Spall, J. (2014). ‘Money has More Weight than the Man’: Masculinities in the Marriages of Angolan War Veterans. IDS Bulletin45(1), 11-19.

  1. OTHER

Spall, J. and Stojetz, W. (2014). “POEMA – A reintegração dos militares desmobilizados do Huambo”, Jornal de Ondaka (Angolan newspaper), May 17th, 2014.

Stojetz, W. (2014). Soldiers and Trauma. DIW Roundup (26). DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.