December 3, 2021

Ethnic Cooperation


Contact Can Reduce Conflict

What real-world conditions produce collaborative contact?


  • Sport
  • Trade
  • War


Football Star

How is Mohamed Salah playing for Liverpool similar to conditions laid out in contact hypothesis?

How is it different?

Football Star

“Contact” that reaches far more people:

  • not just those who elect to join intensive service organization (e.g. TFA)
  • not just those who elect to join inter-group sports league (cricket in India)
  • easier to overcome physical obstacles to “contact”
  • potentially millions of fans of football club

Football Star

Beyond anecdotal accounts we’ve seen:

How would we know whether Mohamed Salah has reduced Islamophobia in Liverpool?

  • prior evidence that African football matches increased national vs ethnic identity

Alrababa’h et al (2021)

Alrababa’h et al (2021)

Compare changes in anti-Muslim hate crimes and Twitter posts:

  • from the time period before vs after Salah started at Liverpool
  • compare changes in Liverpool (treated) against changes in rest of UK (untreated)
  • Construct a “synthetic” Liverpool (other UK areas most similar in trends before Salah)
    • What would Liverpool have done in absence of Salah

Alrababa’h et al (2021)

If we create compare trends in every region in UK to “synthetic” versions of itself, Liverpool stands out

Alrababa’h et al (2021)

Compared to other places in UK, Liverpool after Salah saw

  • greater reductions in hate crimes (but not other crimes)
  • greater reductions in anti-Muslim speech on Twitter


Contact through Trade

Inter-group contact can occur in trading relationships

Paralleling Lowe (2020), trading contact can be:

collaborative: if trade mutually benefits both groups

adversarial: if groups compete in the same markets

Jha (2013)

When two ethnic groups produce complementary goods and services:

  • ethnic groups not competing over same market for goods
  • gains made by one group, benefit the other group (and vice versa)
  • and complementarities are costly to acquire (one group cannot “steal” or produce on its own the other group’s goods/services)

Then inter-ethnic contact likely to be collaborative, not adversarial

Jha (2013)

In medieval India, Muslim traders and Hindu communities had complentary trade relationships (collaborative):

  • Muslims had unique access to Indian Ocean trade due to Hajj
  • Hindus could not duplicate these networks, due to cost of the pilgrimage
  • Muslims benefitted from trading Hindu-produced goods; Hindus benefitted from intra-Muslim competition in reducing price of imports

But this form of contact was concentrated in towns with direct acccess to the Indian Ocean

  • in landlocked towns, Muslims lacked unique trading opportunities, competed with Hindu merchants and artisans (adversarial)

Jha (2013)

How do we know whether medieval Muslim trading communities reduced Hindu Muslim conflict?

  • What if Muslim traders picked towns that were already more welcoming?
  • A solution: presence of natural harbors:
    • medieval ocean-going vessels required harbors that protected them from weather
    • compare coastal towns with and without natural harbors
    • “random” geography induces medieval Muslim traders