Beyond Ethnicity: the Global Comparative Analysis of Ethnic Conflict

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Conflicts that are reported as being between ethnic groups are often described as "ethnic conflicts". The implication is that such conflicts belong to a general type of ethnic conflict with certain repeated and preictable features . This type of conflict is seen as being motivated by ethnic sentiments, as being grounded in deeply set hatreds, and as being virtually inescapable. By applying the epithet "ethnic", it is as if the conflict were already explained. However there are many reasons to be suspicious of these implications. Ethnic groups presently embroiled in fierce conflict may have been, at a previous point in time, peacefully co-existent. Frequently the very lines of ethnic difference become blurred through intermarriage and cultural change. Therefore, in order to understand conflict described as "ethnic" we need to uncover the reasons why (in a given conflict situation) there is heightened awareness of ethnic difference. Then we need to explain what I have termed "the conditions of ethnicity", that is the external conditions which lead to severe conflict; and those external circumstances that make it likely that the conflict will follow lines of ethnic differentiation. Two of these conditions are the strength of the state system and the ability of the state to manage ethnic conflict.
Translated title of the contributionBeyond Ethnicity: the Global Comparative Analysis of Ethnic Conflict
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179 - 194
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Comparative Sociology
Volume45 (3-4)
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2004

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Sage

Structured keywords

  • SPAIS Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship


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