October 15, 2021

Ethnicity and Conflict

Outline

  • admin
  • Recap: ethnic diversity unrelated to conflict
  • How might ethnicity be related to conflict?
  • How to measure ethnicity?

Puzzle:

Ethnic Diversity and Conflict?

Fearon and Laitin find no relationship between ethnic diversity and conflict…

YET

  • 50–75% of civil wars in the post 1945 period involve ethnicity; are longer; more deadly (Doyle and Sambanis 2006)

  • even other measures (e.g. ethnic polarization or having a few large groups), have noisy relationship with conflict.

Ethnic Diversity and Conflict?

Two ways of responding

  1. Theory linking ethnic diversity to conflict is too simple;
  • which groups are activated?
  • ethnic boundaries are different in places with similar “diversity”
  • there may be differences within groups
  1. Better measures of ethnicity: diversity is not the only way ethnicity might matter for conflict
  • what are ‘activated’ ethnic categories?
  • what is the content of ethnic boundaries?

Theorizing Ethnic Conflict

Ethnic Status Competition:

Conflict can be the result of ethnic groups seeking to raise their relative status:

  • the material and cultural status of ethnic groups the result of colonial governments
  • “backward” (lower status) groups seek to improve status vis-a-vis “advanced” groups
    • seek special protections, separation
    • new status dimensions (legitimacy of groups)
    • fears of “extinction”
  • groups seek political power as a form of status/means to status \(\to\) conflict

Horowitz (pp. 141-184)

Ethnic Status Competition:

Fearon and Laitin presume that, if competition over ethnic status is correct, diversity \(\xrightarrow{leads \ to}\) conflict

  • Sambanis and Shayo (2013) ask: is this really the prediction from this theory?
  • To answer this, translate Horowitz’s argument to a formal mathematical model

Why formalize?

What is it?

  • assumptions (informed by prior research) about the relevant actors, the choices they can make, the information and calculations that inform those decisions
  • translate these to a mathematical model
  • solve for how actors behave under different conditions (find “equilibria”)

Why?

  • Derive predictions from the model based on different conditions
  • compare predictions with reality. (but compare with natural sciences)

Sambanis and Shayo

Formalize the logic outlined by Horowitz:

  • Individuals choose to identify with their ethnic group \(G\) or with the nation \(N\)

    • set of relevant ethnic categories fixed, membership rules fixed, choice of identification only
    • a function of the relative status of ethnic group \(J\) or \(N\), perceived similarity (‘distance’) to members of \(J\) or \(N\)
  • Groups compete over resources that can allocated to benefit specific groups (could be money, political power, etc.)

  • Informed by these conditions, individuals make decisions on whether and how much to “fight” for these resources

Sambanis and Shayo

Implications of the model:

\(1.\) There are multiple equilibria.

  • even with status differences between ethnic groups, and people are “closer” to ethnic group than nation…
  • history of peaceful relations can lead to stable peace, preference for national identity OR history of conflict can produce conflict

For example: Kenya vs. Tanzania. - both highly diverse; but Tanzania has built strong national identity, equitable redistribution. Has less conflict than Kenya.

Sambanis and Shayo

Implications of the model:

\(2\). Lower national status leads to greater ethnic identification and ethnic conflict.

Example:

  • Catalan separatism took off as Spain declined as international power (lower national status), regional economic growth increased in Catalonia (higher ethnic status)

Sambanis and Shayo

Implications of the model:

\(3\). Increase in the salience (distance between) of ethnic identities increases ethnic identification, conflict.

  • linguistic differences associated with conflict; but can be reduced with schooling, assimilation
  • short term changes in salience are possible:

    • Hindu nationalist processions, attempt to replace mosque with temple
    • Mexican revolution reduced salience of indigenous/criollo divide in favor of national identity

Sambanis and Shayo

Implications of the model:

\(4\). Increasing the share of resources that can be captured by a group increases ethnic identification.

Example:

  • presence of natural resources (e.g. in Congo) permits ethnic armed groups to capture resources, leading to more conflict

Sambanis and Shayo

Implications of the model:

\(6\). “Ethnic extremists” with sufficient organizational resources can generate ethnic conflict even if large numbers in their ethnic community prefer national identification.

Example

  • While many Serbs/Croats in Yugoslavia voted against ethnic parties in 1990, Serban and Croat ultranationalists formed ethnic militias. Their violence pushed mdoerate voters to back ethnic mobilization.

Sambanis and Shayo

Key insights:

Building on the insights of social identity theory and Horowitz…

  • ethnic diversity may or may not lead to conflict (multiple equilibria). Fearon and Laitin do not actually test this theory.
  • despite psychological founation, structural factors matter:

    • perceived status of national identity
    • the perceived salience of ethnic differences
    • whether institutions permit groups to capture national resources
    • the organizational/violence capabilities of ethnic entrepreneuers

Measuring Ethnicity

Cederman et al (2010)

Similar to Horowitz, Sambanis and Shayo, argue that…

  • Ethnic conflict more likely if ethnic groups are excluded from political power at the national level
  • Ethnic conflict more likely if ethnic groups experience a decline in political power at the national level (think of Tigray example)

Cederman et al (2010)

Measurement is very different from Fearon and Laitin:

  • Ethnicity

    • Ethnic Power Relations database
    • “We classify as politically relevant if at least one political organization represents it in national politics or if its members face political discrimination”
    • What is group’s access to political power in national government?
  • Conflict

    • Examine only conflicts coded as “ethnonationalist”
    • based on ethnic aims of armed groups, structure of alliances, recruitment patterns

Cederman et al (2010)

Analysis:

comparing ethnic groups (not countries)…

  • do ethnic groups that are excluded from political power, experience loss in political power become more likely to become involved in a civil war?

Cederman et al (2010)

Cederman et al (2010)

Cederman et al (2010)