Laura Acosta

Postdoctoral Research Associate in International and Public Affairs
Areas of Expertise Ethnic Conflict & Civil War, Social Movements
Areas of Interest Peace, War, and Social Conflict; Social Movements and Collective Behavior; Comparative Historical Sociology; Sociology of Culture, and Social Networks


Laura Acosta is a Postdoctoral Fellow in International and Public Affairs at Brown University. She completed her PhD in Sociology at Northwestern University. Before joining Brown, Laura taught courses on social inequality, political sociology, and research methods at Trinity College Dublin. Her research brings a historical and comparative perspective to questions of nation formation and the construction and transformation of social identities and symbolic boundaries over time, especially as these processes sustain violence and war.

Her research has been published in Theory and Society, Social Forces, and Quality & Quantity, and has received awards and honors from four different sections of the American Sociological Association: Culture; Human Rights; Theory; and Peace, War, and Social Conflict.


Laura's book project uses the cases of Mexico and Colombia to examine the causes and reproductive mechanisms of civil wars that last more than fifty years. The research draws on the analysis of newspapers, network analysis of violent events and political claims, content analysis of official archival documents in Mexico and Colombia, and in-depth interviews with dozens of Colombian citizens.

Previous empirical projects also include a study of the 2016 peace plebiscite in Colombia to understand how the interplay between objective and subjective victimization shapes preferences for conflict resolution; a study of the evolution of Belgian nationalism during and between the two World Wars; and the development of a regularity theory of causality for the social sciences.


Acosta, Laura & Robert Braun. 2022. “War Commemoration and Nationalism in Belgium, 1914-1945: The Role of Military Networks”, Social Forces, 100(4), pp. 1884-1909.

Mahoney, James & Laura Acosta. 2022. “A Regularity Theory of Causality for the Social Sciences”, Quality & Quantity, 56, pp. 1889-1911.

Acosta, Laura. 2021. “Victimhood Dissociation and Conflict Resolution: Evidence from the Colombian Peace Plebiscite”, Theory and Society, 50(4), pp. 679-714.