Dr. Jonathan Pinckney is a senior researcher for USIP’s Program on Nonviolent Action.

He joined USIP after two years as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, where he supervised the Anatomy of Resistance Campaigns Project. Prior to that, he worked as a research fellow at the Sie Cheou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy, where he supervised the Social Conflict Analysis Database and the Nonviolent and Violent Campaigns and Outcomes Data Project, version 3.0.

Dr. Pinckney is a well-known expert on nonviolent action, focusing on the intersection between nonviolent movements, democratization, and peace processes and the use of statistical analysis and big data to better understand nonviolent mobilization. He speaks frequently on the origins, dynamics, and consequences of nonviolent action and has taught undergraduate courses on civil resistance and international relations.

Dr. Pinckney received both a master’s and doctorate from the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies and a bachelor’s from Gordon College. He is the author of “From Dissent to Democracy: The Promise and Perils of Civil Resistance Transitions,” published by Oxford University Press, as well as numerous articles in major media outlets such as Foreign Policy and The Washington Post and top-ranking academic journals such as International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Peace Research, and Conflict Management and Peace Science.

Publications By Jonathan

Promoting Peace and Democracy after Nonviolent Action Campaigns

Promoting Peace and Democracy after Nonviolent Action Campaigns

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

By: Jonathan Pinckney, Ph.D.

The ouster of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 was brought about using the tools of nonviolent action, including massive protests and nationwide strikes. Yet the transition that followed showed that initiating change through nonviolent action is no guarantee of a peaceful, smooth path to democracy. This report, based on data on 72 political transitions that occurred between 1945 and 2019, provides key insights into the kinds of mobilization, in terms of tactics and actors, that tend to be most effective in carrying transitions to a democratic outcome.

Type: Peaceworks

Democracy & GovernanceNonviolent Action

In the Struggle for Peace, Four Lessons From a Leader

In the Struggle for Peace, Four Lessons From a Leader

Thursday, May 5, 2022

By: Jonathan Pinckney, Ph.D.

Recent years of declining democracy and rising authoritarianism and violent conflict form what President Biden and others call the “defining challenge of our time.” Biden, like millions of people, see nonviolent struggles for freedom, such as those led by the Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as humanity’s best way to meet this challenge. Last week, though few may have realized it, the world lost a man who, over the last fifty years, helped us to understand and act on that insight: Dr. Peter Ackerman.

Type: Blog

Nonviolent Action

Nonviolent Action in the Era of Digital Authoritarianism: Hardships and Innovations

Nonviolent Action in the Era of Digital Authoritarianism: Hardships and Innovations

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

By: Matthew Cebul, Ph.D.;  Jonathan Pinckney, Ph.D.

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, nonviolent action movements employed social media and other digital tools to orchestrate pro-democracy uprisings that took regimes by surprise. Those euphoric early days have since given way to digital repression, restricted online freedoms, and democratic backsliding as authoritarian regimes leverage new technologies to surveil the opposition and sow misinformation. This report documents how nonviolent activists are adapting to digital repression and suggests ways the United States and its allies can slow the pace of autocratic innovation in the use of these technologies.

Type: Special Report

Nonviolent Action

Motives, Benefits, and Sacred Values: Examining the Psychology of Nonviolent Action and Violent Extremism

Motives, Benefits, and Sacred Values: Examining the Psychology of Nonviolent Action and Violent Extremism

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

By: Jonathan Pinckney, Ph.D.;  Michael Niconchuk;  Sarah Ryan

What motivates one person to engage in acts of violent extremism, while others choose to pursue change through nonviolent action? This report is based on pilot research into the psychological and social dynamics of a nonviolent resistance group—Algeria’s Hirak movement—that employs some of the same measures used to study participation in violent extremist organizations. A deeper understanding of these dynamics, it is hoped, will help practitioners, policymakers, and researchers to identify and support paths away from violent extremism and to strengthen and sustain engagement in nonviolent action.

Type: Peaceworks

Nonviolent ActionViolent Extremism

Precarity and Power: Reflections on Women and Youth in Nonviolent Action

Precarity and Power: Reflections on Women and Youth in Nonviolent Action

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

By: Jonathan Pinckney, Ph.D.;  Miranda Rivers

Examples abound of women and youth on the front lines of recent nonviolent action campaigns—from Alaa Salah leading demonstrators in Sudan in 2019 to the thousands of young people marching against the coup in Myanmar in early 2021. Yet significant social, cultural, and economic barriers can prevent both women and youth from participating in nonviolent action. This report, based in part on firsthand reports from activists in seven diverse countries, sheds light on these barriers and makes concrete recommendations for maximizing the impact of women and youth in nonviolent action.

Type: Peaceworks

Nonviolent Action

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