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The Institutional Origins of Ethnic Violence

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Scholars have made substantial progress toward understanding the connections between ethnic relations and civil war, but important theoretical and empirical gaps remain. Existing explanations often ignore the constructivist origins of ethnic group formation, or are too proximate to the outcome under investigation, so that the link between ethnic political competition and ethnic violence is difficult to pick apart. An alternative approach is an explanation of ethnic violence rooted in the microfoundations of social identity theory (SIT). When states consistently employ ethnic categories across institutions, they lay the foundation for conflicts over status and power, facilitating recruitment and mobilization on the basis of emotion-laden intergroup comparisons and competition. The strength of these claims is demonstrated through a comparative-historical analysis of ethnic violence in eleven Southern African countries.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2012

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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