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Corruption and identity politics in divided societies

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Corruption is a major problem for populations in various parts of the world. This article argues that to understand the problems and dynamics of corruption, we need to understand how discourses and practices of corruption (and anti-corruption efforts) are intertwined with the construction and contestations of identity. Identity politics is a salient feature in peaceful political struggles, as well as in contemporary armed conflicts, which are often characterised by the politicisation of collective identity (ethnic, national, religious) for the violent pursuit of power. The article outlines and discusses four ways in which identity politics and corruption intersect. First, it points to the often blurred lines between private and collective benefit from corruption, revealing the implications of group identity for how corruption is conceptualised. Second, it shows how corruption may exacerbate grievances along identity lines. Third, it highlights how corruption can be used strategically in identity-based conflicts. Finally, it explores how corruption may encourage cross-ethnic solidarity and mobilisation that defy conflict divides.

Keywords: conflict; corruption; ethnicity; identity politics

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden

Publication date: May 28, 2014

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