Department of Political Science, UCLA
4289 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095
Nathan Gonzalez is a PhD candidate at UCLA’s Department of Political Science, with international relations and comparative politics concentrations. His research focuses on the intersection of identity formation, state building, and conflict, and his regional specialization is the Middle East, with emphasis on Iran.
He currently works as part-time lecturer of Middle East politics and International Studies at California State University, Long Beach, and is a fellow with the Truman National Security Project, a Washington, D.C.-based policy educational institute.
In addition, Nathan is author of two policy books, Engaging Iran (Praeger 2007) and The Sunni-Shia Conflict (Potomac/Nortia 2009). The first book called for greater cooperation between Iran and the United States in fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq (now called ISIS), while the second book was a history of the Sunni-Shia conflict, offering a geopolitical explanation for the hardening of the two main branches of Islam over time. His third book will be based on his dissertation, which proposes a theoretical framework for understanding how borders affect identity and ethnic relations in young states, particularly in the Middle East.
He has given expert commentary in both English and Spanish on several media outlets, including Al Jazeera English, Telemundo, NPR Capitol Radio, and AmericaTeve. He has given talks at CSULB, CSUB, Columbia University, several World Affairs Council chapters, as well as women's and Latino educational organizations in Southern California.
Nathan holds a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University and speaks Spanish, Iranian Persian, German, and Italian. Once in a blue moon he is an amateur composer of chamber and orchestral music.
Artificial Borders and Mass Violence: How Colonial Legacies Fuel Ethnic and Religious Strife
Committee: Steven L. Spiegel (chair), David C. Rapoport, Deborah Larson, and Richard H.
For some time scholars and policy observers alike have suggested that “artificial,” or foreign-drawn borders that have forced ethnic groups to cohabitate under a single national state structure are to blame for many of the ethnic conflicts we have witnessed in postcolonial states. So far, however, there has been no empirical evidence to support this assertion. This dissertation’s contributions are twofold. First, I introduce the forced cohabitation (FC) variable, described as a state with foreign-drawn borders whose largest ethnic group comprises less than 80 percent of the total population. In finding that this variable is positively and robustly correlated with ethnic civil war outbreak, one-sided government violence against civilians, and foreign military intervention, the dissertation offers the first quantitative evidence linking artificial borders with mass violence episodes. Second, the dissertation provides a refined theory of forced cohabitation as a framework for understanding these correlations. The theory posits that forced cohabitation states have a propensity to mimic the conditions of national-state formation, which involve the dual experience of ethnic-based internal and external challenges on the one hand, and government responses that include violent homogenization campaigns on the other.
"Nathan Gonzalez has written the first general, accessible account of the conflict within the House of Islam and its continuing impact on the politics of the region. ... The Sunni-Shia Conflict is a powerful and persuasive book. It should be obligatory reading for every policymaker caught up in the current maelstrom in the Middle East." --Anthony Pagden, author of Worlds at War
"Nathan Gonzalez knows Iran. His grasp of the country's culture, religion, and complex political structure is unmatched among American analysts." --Reza Aslan, author of No god but God and Zealot