Wesleyan portrait of Ioana Emy  Matesan

Ioana Emy Matesan

Associate Professor of Government

Public Affairs Center, 202

Tutor, College of Social Studies


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MA Arizona State University
PHD Syracuse University

Ioana Emy Matesan

Ioana Emy Matesan focuses on Middle East politics, particularly security and political violence, democratization and Islamist movements. In Egypt and Indonesia, Matesan conducted National Science Foundation-supported fieldwork exploring why groups adopt or abandon violence and how tactical and ideological change happens within Islamist movements. She has also researched and published on Hamas and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, new security challenges in the Middle East and North Africa after the Arab Spring, and the dynamics of resistance to foreign rule.

Her book The Violence Pendulum (Oxford University Press 2020) examines what drives Islamist groups to shift between violent and nonviolent tactics. When do opposition groups move away from armed action, and why do some organizations renounce violence permanently, whereas others refrain temporarily? Matesan's analysis traces the historical evolution of four Islamist groups: the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya in Egypt, and Darul Islam and Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia. Drawing from archival materials, interviews, and reports, she focuses on turning points in each organization. Ultimately, she finds that Islamist groups alter their tactics in response to the perceived need for activism, shifts in the cost of violent versus nonviolent resistance, and internal or external pressures on the organization.

Her articles have appeared in Journal of Global Security Studies, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Terrorism and Political Violence (here and here), Journal of Strategic Security, and Nations and Nationalism.

From her work:

On what prompts armed Islamist groups to renounce violence (link):

"When violence becomes costly and non-violent alternatives are available, groups can disengage from violence behaviorally. This does not mean that they denounce armed action or give up all military capabilities. The move towards a complete renouncement of violence is marked by the logic of disillusionment. Such a radical transformation is not driven by exit options, but rather by an organizational crisis and high public condemnation."

On how armed non-state actors react to their mistakes  (link):

"All groups, regardless of ideology and organizational structure are willing to accept their mistakes if they bear high public costs. This shows that all armed groups can be open to learning and self-criticism, and are sensitive to public opinion and condemnation. This finding not only challenges pervasive assumptions about groups that employ violence, but it also identifies a crucial Achilles's heel for armed organizations: public opinion."


Academic Affiliations

Office Hours

Spring 2020: Thursdays 2:00 - 4:00 pm & by appointment


Spring 2022
GOVT 270 - 01
Comp Pol of the Middle East

GOVT 298 - 01
Terrorism and Film