ConTrust Working Paper No. 3 | „Time and the Growth of Trust under Conditions of Extreme Uncertainty. Illustrations from Peace and Conflict Studies“ by Hanna Pfeifer and Irene Weipert-Fenner

The article studies civil wars and trust dynamics from two perspectives. It looks, first, at rebel governance during ongoing armed conflict and, second, at mass mobilisation against the regime in post-conflict societies. Both contexts are marked by extraordinarily high degrees of uncertainty given continued, or collective memory of, violence and repression.
But what happens to trust relations under conditions of extreme uncertainty? Intuitively, one would assume that trust is shaken or even substantially eroded in such moments, as political and social orders are questioned on a fundamental level and threaten to collapse. However, while it is true that some forms of trust are under assault in situations of civil war and mass protests, we find empirical evidence which suggests that these situations also give rise to the formation of other kinds of trust. We argue that, in order to detect and explain these trust dynamics in contexts of extreme uncertainty, there should be more systematic studies of: (a) synchronous dynamics between different actors and institutions which imply trust dynamics happening simultaneously, (b) diachronous dynamics and the sequencing of trust dynamics over several phases of violent conflict or episodes of contention, as well as long-term structural legacies of the past. In both dimensions, microlevel relations, as well as their embeddedness in larger structures, help explain how episodes of (non-)violent contention become a critical juncture for political and social trust.

civil war, contentious politics, Middle East and North Africa, rebel governance, social movements, temporality

The text of this publication is published under the Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International. The exact wording of the license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 can be found here.

Recommended Citation
Hanna Pfeifer & Irene Weipert-Fenner, “Time and the Growth of Trust under Conditions of Extreme Uncertainty. Illustrations from Peace
and Conflict Studies”, ConTrust Working Paper, No. 3, Frankfurt am Main: ConTrust – Trust in Conflict, 2022.


Prof Dr Hanna Pfeifer (1987) is an assistant professor of political science with a focus on radicalisation and violence research (funded by the Johanna Quandt Jubilee Fund) at the department of social sciences at Goethe University Frankfurt and the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF) where she heads the research group on terrorism. Before coming to Frankfurt in 2020, she was a research associate at HSU Hamburg, OvGU Magdeburg, and the Munich School of Philosophy. In 2018, she was a DFG research fellow at the POLIS department of the University of Cambridge. She obtained her PhD at Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg in 2017 after holding scholarships by the German National Academic Foundation and the Max Weber Foundation / Orient Institute Beirut. Her research focuses on processes of order-making and political violence of, and the relationship between, states and armed non-state actors in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as democratic and non-democratic foreign and security policy.

Websites: PRIF and Goethe-University
Phone: +49 (0) 69 798-36636

Dr Irene Weipert-Fenner (born 1982) is a researcher at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt and Principal Investigator at ConTrust. As a comparative political scientist, she focuses on autocracies and democratization as well as protests and social movements with a regional focus on the Middle East and North Africa. Irene Weipert-Fenner holds a PhD in political science from Goethe University. For her dissertation „The Autocratic Parliament. Power and Norm Dynamics in Egypt, 1866 -2011“ she received the Dissertation Award of the German Working Group on the Middle East (DAVO) in 2014.
In 2019, she represented the professorship of Middle Eastern Politics at Philipps University Marburg. From 2014 to 2022, she led international research projects with Egyptian and Tunisian partners funded by the Volkswagen Foundation. She is also a member of the Arab German Young Academy (AGYA).

Telefon: +49 (0) 69 95910471