Biz's research interests include conflict studies, trauma and resilience, intergroup relations, political psychology, and the politicization of historical narratives. Her dissertation examines the ways in which trauma impacts intergroup relations and reconciliation efforts; she is broadly interested in examining how the psychological and physiological consequences of conflict impact post-conflict stability.

Below, brief descriptions of her ongoing research projects can be found. For more information on any particular project, please contact her at elizabethdherman@gmail.com or use the contact form found here.


This project examines how individual trauma responses affect intergroup relations and support for reconciliation after conflict. The question of what impacts reconciliation after conflict is one that has received a significant amount of study to date. While scholars in the past have looked to factors such as economic stability, employment opportunities, equal representation of various groups in government, and the establishment of strong political institutions, this study maintains that the psychological impacts of war and their related physiological expressions have been neglected in the post-conflict literature, yet play a major role in determining intergroup relations and possibilities for reconciliation and recovery after conflict.

The work tests the hypothesis that an adverse trauma response at the individual level, characterized by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), leads to the activation of physiological processes, including heightened threat reactivity, which deteriorates intergroup relations and support for reconciliation in post-conflict settings.

Given that prior studies examining post-conflict recovery in political science have largely omitted psychological indicators up until a few years ago, this research addresses an important gap, testing an explanatory factor that has not been considered in-depth. Incorporating new findings from the field of psychology into the political science literature allows for a novel approach to the study of post-conflict recovery that can offer important insights.

Dissertation Research: Trauma & Reconciliation


9/11 Narratives in History Textbooks

This study reveals that the tone and content of a country’s official narratives closely reflect its current political characteristics and agendas. The project presents a novel framework for systematically analyzing patterns that exist between narratives of the past and political priorities of the present, examining how specific characteristics of a nation correlate with the content of its official historical narratives.

The framework identifies six political indicators, each of which relates to a different aspect of the narrative, and gathers measurements of these indicators for each country analyzed. Using the events of 9/11 as the case of interest, the study analyzes narratives of secondary school history textbooks from 20 countries. This includes a content analysis of each textbook, which evaluates the narratives with respect to the predictions of the political indicators, after which a cross-country evaluation is presented. Case studies of three nations are offered for closer analysis.

This study reveals three key substantive findings: (1) textbooks can be seen and read as springboards from which nations discuss some of their most urgent political issues of the day; (2) the less effective a regime, the more likely it is to adopt a nationalistic, one-dimensional narrative, and; (3) a country’s current political relations with another nation are a key determinant of that country’s historical narrative of the given nation. It concludes with a discussion of the potential implications of the differing narratives and considering the importance of the study of official narratives in understanding international security today.


1971 War in Bangladeshi Textbooks

This research examines of how official narratives of Bangladesh’s 1971 Liberation War have shifted over time in national social studies textbooks. Since independence, history textbooks in Bangladesh have been sites of political contestation, undergoing a number of politically-motivated revisions with each new regime that comes into power.

With the goal of examining these changes and the effects they have had on the Bangladeshi population, this study includes three levels of analysis: (1) an institutional analysis, which considers the actors and institutions that develop curricula and textbooks, (2) a textual analysis, which dissects the narratives of the 1971 Liberation War in Bangladeshi social science textbooks and curricula from 1971 to the present, and (3) classroom observations, which focus on how textbooks are used in lessons and how students interact with that history.

The study is comprised of a year’s worth of intensive data collection in Bangladesh and includes over 30 school visits, 150 curricular documents, and 100 interviews across Bangladesh’s seven districts. Through these analyses, this research concludes that revisions of the narratives by those who have held political power over the years has been done in search of political legitimacy. Further, these revisions have both hindered the quality of the entire educational system in Bangladesh by unnecessarily expediting the textbook generation process, and led to a perception of a lack of a "true history" in the country’s collective memory. 


An oral history and documentary photography project, A Woman’s War documents the lives of women engaged in recent conflicts worldwide, as well as their struggle for justice, rights, and their identity as female fighters. Women have played key roles in recent conflicts, serving as combatants, nurses, organizers, spies, and more.

Over the past three years, I have documented the stories of 116 women in five countries: revolutionaries of Egypt’s recent uprisings, women on all sides of the 1992-1995 Bosnian War, women of the North Vietnamese Army, Protestant and Catholic women of the decades-long Troubles in Northern Ireland, and freedom fighters of the 1971 Bangladeshi Liberation War.

Though the locations and conflicts vary greatly, A Woman’s War reveals concerns and emotions common across time and place. The story of each woman is a powerful narrative of trauma and survival, of hatred and belonging, of forgiveness and peace. Theirs are histories that many of their families, communities, and nations have yet to confront, yet whose acknowledgement and documentation are vital if these countries—and the women who have given so much to them—are to find justice and peace.

Women in Conflict