November 3, 2021

Ethnic Violence

Outline:

  • Patterns of violence
    • four attributes
  • Perceptions of violence
  • Defining Ethnic Violence
  • Violence and Ethnic Boundaries

Motivation:

In depth look at 1984 Delhi Riot (pogrom) shows:

  1. Violence not merely the result of increased “intensity” of conflict:
    • who has capacity, motive, opportunity to do it?
    • how are those capacities, motives, opportunities created?
  2. Production of violence is complex:
    • perpetrators, victims, bystanders, audiences
    • these “groups” lack coherent/unified motives and understanding
    • the practice of violence can vary widely

Motivation:

Retaining these insights:

  1. What is ethnic violence?

  2. What are the causes of ethnic violence?

Patterns of Violence

Patterns of Violence

Gutierrez-Sanin and Wood (2017) argue that a pattern of violence employed by a group/organization in some place over a period of time is characterized by its…

  1. repertoire
  2. targeting
  3. frequency
  4. technique

Patterns of Violence

repertoire:

forms of violence in which an organization/individual regularly engages

Examples:

killing, torture, forced displacement, rape, robbery, kidnapping/imprisonment, vandalism, etc.

Patterns of Violence

targeting:

which people or social groups are made the targets of specific repertoires of violence (not motive as much as, descriptively, who are the victims)

Examples:

ethnic groups, genders, political groups, combatants, political rivals, people who fail to comply with rules, etc.

Kinds of Targeting

selective violence:

violence against an individual because of specific allegations about their behavior or actions

Examples:

assassinations, disappearance of political activists, etc.

Kinds of Targeting

collective or identity-based violence

violence against individuals based on their membership in a social group.

This kind of violence is connected to social boundaries: violence happens along the boundary because it targets people based on the categories they are labelled with

Examples

ethnic cleansing; supporters of a political party; shelling cities with ethnic majorities; bombing villages held by insurgents

Kinds of Targeting

indiscriminate violence

violence against individuals without regard to individual behavior or membership in social categories

Example?

bombing of entire villages?

Rarely is violence entirely indiscriminate

Patterns of Violence

technique

how a repertoire of violence is performed

Examples

murder by firing squad, massacre using knives, bombing, torture to death, disappearance;

  • in public vs in secret
  • with a “trial”?
  • what was said, symbols invoked during/after the killing

Patterns of Violence

frequency

the count or rate of victimization among specific groups in the population

Examples

fraction of Rwandan genocide victims that were Tutsi

What makes a pattern of violence ethnic?

  • repertoire?
  • targeting?
    • should any violence in which ethnicity of perpetrator/victim differs be “ethnic”
    • is intra-ethnic violence never “ethnic”?
    • can selective targeting be ethnic? (must targeting be collective to be ethnic?)
    • does targeting need to be intentional?
  • frequency?
    • if violence targets one group more than another, is that “ethnic”
  • technique?
    • can a technique be ethnic?

Patterns of Violence

On one hand…

  • Not clear that any attribute of pattern of violence is necessary for ethnic violence. No specific attribute that is by itself sufficient for ethnic violence.

On the other hand…

  • Gutierrez-Sanin and Wood (2017) show that this perspective is helpful to describe and understand causes of violence.

Interlude

Three examples:

  • Hungarian soccer fans injured by Slovakian soccer fans in 1995: not seen as ethnic. (Brubaker and Laitin 2004)

  • Estonian-language school burned down in Russian-speaking region of Estonia: seen as Mafia activity, not ethnic violence (Brubaker and Laitin 2004)

  • Police violence against villagers in Narayanpur, UP. Politicians draw attention to it as against lower caste/Muslims; ignoring other similar events nearby (Brass 1997)

Perception Matters

In addition to the pattern of violence (what was actually done), it matters how violence is perceived:

  • Who is the audience for violence (intended vs actual)?
  • How does violence come to be perceived as an ethnic event or not?

Perception Matters

Whether or not violence is seen as ethnic…

  • may determine the consequences of those events
  • changing consequences of violence alters the strategic calculus of perpetrators (cause of events)

And so we observe great effort by perpetrators, victims, others to narrate and use frames that either justify or condemn violence.

Perception Matters

Why does ethnic framing of violence happen?

  • It may be a strategic way to build alliances/coalitions. (Kalyvas 2003)
  • It may be that ethnic frames are cognitively more accessible (Hale 2004)
  • It may be that ethnic frames “make sense” or do not “make sense” in a particular ethnic boundary

Ethnic Violence

definition (adapted from Brubaker and Laitin 2004)

violence perpetrated across or within ethnic lines, in which at least one party is not a state (or a representative of a state), and in which putative ethnic differences or similarities are coded—by perpetrators, targets, other parties, or analysts—as having been integral rather than incidental to the violence, that is, in which the violence is coded as having been meaningfully oriented in some way to the ethnicity of the target.

Ethnic Violence

Another perspective on ethnic violence is to ask:

How does violence relate to ethnic boundaries?

  1. Violence that transforms ethnic boundaries:
    • altering status, access to resources/power, along ethnic categories
  2. Violence that defends/polices ethnic boundaries:
    • violence that punishes or deters transgressions/changes of an ethnic boundary
  3. Violence that is constitutive of an ethnic boundary:
    • routine violence that disproportionately targets/affects members of specific ethnic categories

Conclusion

  1. Patterns of Violence: explaining violence requires focusing on WHO is doing WHAT to WHOM?
    • explanations need to consider motives of perpetrators, their resources, their constraints. Recognizing perpetrators are NOT a homogenous group.
  2. Perception: how does the process by which violence become coded as ethnic matter?
    • motives: strategic/psychological
    • costs/benefits of engaging in different patterns of violence

Conclusion

\(3.\) Violence and Boundaries: how does violence relate to ethnic boundary structure?

  • causes and consequences may differ when violence is constitutive of boundaries rather than transformative of boundaries

Next class: applying these three ideas to police violence in the United States.