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Dr Kieran Mitton

Senior Lecturer in International Relations

mitton2014Room: K7. 24

Department of War Studies

School of Security Studies

King's College London


London WC2R 2LS





Contact Details


Tel: +44 (0)20 7848 2670

Office hours: Fridays 12:00-14:00 (please email in advance to guarantee appointment)   

I am Senior Lecturer in International Relations, Research Director of the Conflict, Security & Development Research Group, and co-Chair of the Africa Research Group. I am co-founder of the Urban Violence Research Network.

I joined the department in 2012, after completing my MA, MRes and PhD within the Department of War Studies (KCL). From 2007 I worked as a Research Fellow in the Conflict Security and Development Research Group (KCL), conducting extensive fieldwork in Sierra Leone for a study of ex-combatant reintegration. I also worked with a range of research and development organisations, including the International Policy Institute, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the United Nations Development Programme, and various risk intelligence consultancies. During 2017-2018 I was a Visiting Associate at the Violence and Safety Initiative at the University of Cape Town, South Africa: and isiting Fellow at the Igarapé Institute, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil:

My recent research has examined the causes and shaping dynamics of extreme violence during conflict, with a particular focus upon the role of emotions and psychology at both individual and group level. I am currently developing a multi-country research project (Brazil, Sierra Leone, South Africa, UK) exploring urban violence and youth in 'non-war' contexts, contrasting associated public health interventions with securitised state-responses. I have specialist area knowledge of Brazil, South Africa, Sierra Leone, and sub-Saharan Africa more broadly.

Research Interests

Urban Violence
Youth at Risk/Youth as Risk - Global Repsonses to Urban Violence 
My most recent research project (under development) explores various issues related to urban violence, youth marginality, and the crime-conflict nexus across a number of cities. In particularly it evaluates the effectiveness of two contrasting responses to urban violence: publich health interventions and securitised state-responses. To date I have carried out fieldwork with gang members, communities and security sector actors in Cape Town (South Africa), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Freetown (Sierra Leone) and London (UK). Several extended research visits have been completed in each of these locations since 2016. A total of nine consecutive months of fieldwork in violence-affected communities was completed in Rio (Compexo da Maré), Cape Town (Manenberg, Hanover Park) and Freetown in 2017-2018. The project links with local research partners, related community organisations and security sector actors to provide a uniquely multi-disciplinary, comparative micro-level analysis of the various factors shaping urban and gang violence. It gives emphasis to listening to the voices of youth and gang-members. Included in the planned output of this project is a feature-length documentary following individuals in each city as they navigate the day-to-day challenges of life in the margins.

Atrocities and Violence in Civil War
Since 2008 I have conducted regular fieldwork in Sierra Leone to interrogate the various causes and shaping dynamics of extreme violence in conflict, examining the concept of brutalisation and the social psychology of violence. Taking a broad inter-disciplinary approach, I am especially interested in violence characterised as ‘irrational’ and the role played by the emotions of disgust and shame. My book, Rebels in a Rotten State: Understanding Atrocity in the Sierra Leone Civil War (2015, Hurst/Oxford University Press), draws on extensive interviews with perpetrators of violence to address the most seemingly ‘senseless’ acts of atrocity.

Within the Conflict, Security and Development Research Group, I lead a newly established project - Beyond Reason? - that brings together leading international researchers from various academic disciplines to address the question of how we might better understand and tackle civil war atrocities. Further details available here.

Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) 
I am interested in the challenges faced in war-to-peace transitions, particularly with regard to the disarmament and reintegration of armed groups through both formal and informal processes. Since 2007 I have conducted a longitudinal study of Sierra Leone’s ex-combatants and their experience of DDR, giving particular attention to the neglected area of political integration. I have published a series of journal articles for this project, further details of which can be found on the Conflict, Security and Development Research Group page.  


• Mitton, Kieran (2018) 'War by Another Name? The ‘Urban Turn’ in 21st Century Violence', T.note, Vol. 59, Human Security Issue 7 – 23 April 2018 

• Mitton, Kieran (2015) Rebels in a Rotten State: Understanding Atrocity in Sierra Leone (London: Hurst/Oxford University Press)

• Mitton, Kieran (2015) 'A Pragmatic Pact: Reconciliation and Reintegration in Sierra Leone', in Kirsten Ainley, Rebekka Friedman & Chris Mahony (eds) Evaluating Transitional Justice: Accountability and Peacebuilding in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone (London: Palgrave Macmillan)

• Mitton, Kieran (2013), ‘Where is the War? Explaining Peace in Sierra Leone’, International Peacekeeping, Vol. 30, Issue 3.

• Mitton, Kieran (2012), ‘Irrational Actors and the Process of Brutalisation: Understanding Atrocity in the Sierra Leonean Conflict (1991–2002)’, Civil Wars, Volume 14, Issue 1, March 2012.

• Mitton, Kieran (2010), ‘Rearmament, Remobilisation and Disintegration in Sierra Leone’, Conflict Security and Development Research Group, King's College London, 2010.  

• Mitton, Kieran (2009), 'Engaging disengagement: The political reintegration of Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front' in Reintegrating Armed Groups after Conflict: Politics, Violence and Transition, Mats Berdal & David Ucko, eds. (Abingdon: Routledge, May 2009).

• Mitton, Kieran (2009), 'Reconstructing Trust in Sierra Leone.' The Round Table, Volume 98, Issue 403, August 2009.  

• Mitton, Kieran (2008), ‘Engaging Disengagement: The Political Reintegration of Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front.’ Conflict, Security and Development, Volume 8, Issue 2, June 2008.  

My publications are available on the Research Portal


I am on research leave during 2017-2018.

During 2016-2017 I taught the following MA courses:

    • 7SSWM140 Conflict, Security and Development.
    • 7SSWM069 Approaches to Understanding Violence and Atrocity in Civil Wars.
  • 7SSWM171 Comparative Civil Wars
  • 7SSWM071 Gender in International Politics and Security
PhD Supervision

I am currently unable to take on new PhD students.

I supervise PhD students in the following subject areas:

  • Conflict, security and development in Africa
  • Violence (war and post-war)
  • Social dynamics of armed groups
  • Reconciliation and transitional justice
  • DDR
  • Trafficking and organised crime in Africa
Expertise and Public Engagement

I have specific area expertise in Sierra Leone and the West Africa region. I regularly consult with international development, governmental and non-governmental organisations on a range of issues related to conflict, security and development in Africa. I have provided briefings to NGOs, governments, diplomatic and military personnel, global risk consultancies and various international organisations operating in sub-Saharan Africa. I have also provided commentary on contemporary political developments in West Africa to international broadcast and print media.

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