Talk:Ethnic conflict

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General comments[edit]

Hi Akm2173 and Amannavani, good job on revising this page. Some comments and suggestions:

  • The lead section seems to get into the weeds a little, especially the second paragraph. It doesn't really reflect the full article. See Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Lead section
  • You do a good job of writing clearly and briefly in short paragraphs, at least until the "Ethnic conflict and public goods provision" section. At that point it gets heavier.
  • Good expansion of the theories section
  • This page in general could benefit from historical and contemporary examples. I have added blank sections in the hopes of prompting such development in future
  • The "Ethnic conflict and public goods provision" section does not flow very well from the rest of the article. It's not clear how it fits in.
  • I would have liked to see you link more from other pages to yours (e.g. develop a few lines int he olitical violence page.
  • The see also section could be better developed.
  • The "Institutional ethnic conflict resolution" section is an excellent addition. Could it be tied into larger thepries (and Wikipedia pages) on conflict resolution or civil war settlement?

Chrisblattman (talk) 01:48, 12 May 2016 (UTC)


THE PRINCIPAL CAUSE OF EVERY ETHNIC CONFLICT IS A COMPETITION FOR THE CONTROL OF TERRITORY, RESOURCES, AND STATUS REWARDS Ethnic diversity, it seems, is here to stay. All attempts so far to homogenize various collectivities have failed. Even the great religious movements like Christianity and Islam, or the Communist movement, have not been able to eradicate differentiation and tribalism. This human diversity may just be a mechanism for the survival of the human species and if so, it should be preserved. It should not, however, be a source of violent ethnic conflict or lead to the destruction of the species. As Harold R. Isaacs has brilliantly pointed out in his IDOLS OF THE TRIBE, we are still in the process of fragmentation of aggregates of separate groups held together by a gravitational force of one dominant group or a coalition of groups that were at the centre. The old European Colonial powers such as England , France , Portugal , and Spain , the Ottoman, Hapsburg and Romanov empires have all fragmented and in their wake left other clusters which continue to fragment. All this happened because the groups in domination position could no longer sustain their power and the groups in the subordination position would no longer submit. This process, described by Isaacs, results in the surfacing of old and new nationalism's and separatism's, all of them striving for regional, cultural, linguistic and political autonomy, all of them demanding recognition as separate and distinct nations. This striving for self-esteem and self-respect brings them in conflict with dominant groups which eventually lead to escalation of such ethnic conflict and inevitable separation.

The international community has been called upon several times recently to stop the terrible massacres that were the culmination of ethnic conflicts. The ethnic wars in the former Yugoslavia , Rwanda , and Somalia are just the extreme examples of ethnic conflict getting out of hand. There are numerous ethnic conflicts still going on and many more are to come.

Not all ethnic conflicts are violent. Ethnic conflicts of low intensity may sometimes be beneficial for the society in which they exist (e.g. Canada ). However, in the majority of societies of diverse ethnic population, ethnic conflicts tend to be of relatively high intensity and eventually become violent. The violence of such conflicts may persist for a long periods of time, in some cases decades ( Middle East , Sri Lanka , Sudan ) causing great loss of lives, famine, and ruining of the economy.

See: —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 22:45, 21 November 2005 (UTC)

Move article?[edit]

I'm proposing to move this article to ethnic conflict. This is a more common term in academic usage, and more articles link to ethnic conflict than to ethnic war. Cordless Larry 20:28, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

The move is now complete. Thanks to W.marsh for helping with the move. Cordless Larry 12:42, 13 February 2007 (UTC)

Merge of "Race war"[edit]

The race war article seems unnecessary and redundant, as it can and should be covered here. Ethnic and racial wars are intertwined enough that I think "race war" has to be covered with ethnic conflict. (And the race war article is a stub, which I know isn't a rationale, but it makes it easier to merge.) – 2001:db8:: (rfc | diff) 04:26, 22 August 2012 (UTC)

  • Done. There is no content other than a bunch of cultural references. Drmies (talk) 02:49, 19 November 2015 (UTC)


[1](Lihaas (talk) 11:22, 25 November 2013 (UTC)).

Constructivism section[edit]

I have just removed a block of text from the section on constructivist approaches which was copied from this page: (search "assimilation" to find it). This is about constructivism in education, which is not relevant to the study of ethnic conflict, and made the article much more confusing. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:20, 15 May 2015 (UTC)

Adding to this page under this format[edit]

Hello all, I am looking to combine the ethnic violence and ethnic conflict pages into one more cohesive page. Moreover, I would like to further expand the section on the causes of ethnic violence. What do you think of this idea? Below is an expanded version of my basic proposed outline:

Extended content

Causes of Ethnic Violence[edit]

I would be further explaining, using the research of prominent scholars in the field of course, the following questions:

Top-down or Bottom Up?[edit]

There is currently no mention of top-down vs bottom-up on the ethnic violence/conflict page (or any mention of these concepts in the social science sphere of wikipedia). Thus, I would like to summarize several of the prevalent and authoritative arguments for each side of the question as well as explain the concept. Since this is a driving question for many of political scientists of today, I think it's important to have this summary of the current discussion. I would be illustrating their points with the case studies the political scientists use to make it clearer. I was planning to add 3-4 paragraphs each for top-down and bottom-up.

I would also add a subsection within this to explain ethnic entrepreneurs and any prevailing political science jargon which might occur.

Interstate vs Intrastate Violence[edit]

I am not sure if this belongs under its own section or a subsection of the TD vs BU debate, but the driving force for two states going to war with a framework of ethnic violence is an important subject.

Moments of Ethnic Violence[edit]

In this section, I would like to discuss today's theories on when ethnic violence actually breaks out. Several theorists suggest that it's during democratization or a certain critical mass of a population that ethnic violence occurs. Therefore, I would summarize the main

  • arguments:
  • democratization
  • demography
  • wealth
  • primordial
  • anarchy

If anyone feels that a major event or exogenous shock is missing, please do not hesitate to respond to this.

Mitigation of Ethnic Violence/Conflict[edit]

Here, I would like to discuss the institutions, on an international and state level, that might lower tension and actually prevent ethnic violence. This is currently being further researched, so if anyone has any suggestions for places to look, I would be very grateful.

So what do you think? Akm2173 (talk) 03:10, 16 March 2016 (UTC)

This is a much-needed initiative, Akm2173. I just have two comments. The top-down/bottom-up distinction is perhaps implicit in the current "theories" section of the article, even if it doesn't use those terms. As for the mitigation of conflict, does the "conflict regulation" section of the article do what you have in mind? Overall, I would encourage you to be bold and go ahead with improving the article. Cordless Larry (talk) 07:54, 16 March 2016 (UTC)
I concur w/ Cordless Larry. Have fun working. Adam (Wiki Ed) (talk) 21:01, 21 March 2016 (UTC)

Hello everyone, I am interested in improving the ethnic conflict page too. It will be a mix of editing current sections and adding a couple of new ones. Here is a brief outline :
Extended content

Ethnic Conflict[edit]

Reading: Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflict (Varshney 2007)

-Definition of ethnic conflict: Conflict need not necessarily be violent.

-Conflict can be a common feature of ethnically diverse democracies. There can be conflict over allocation of public goods, which language should be used in schools or whether religious dress can be worn in public spaces.

-Ethnic violence can occur in three forms; riots pogroms, and civil wars.

Schools of thought[edit]

Reading: Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflict (Varshney 2007)


Focus on weaknesses -Why is there temporal and spatial variation in severity of ethnic violence?

-There have been instances of older inhabitants clashing with new migrant groups.


-Ethnic conflict occurs because leaders strategically manipulate ethnicity for the sake of political power, or for extracting resources form the state.

-However, why do masses follow? Why is mobilization successful?

-Free rider problems?


-Each society has a historically constructed master cleavage eg. Protestant versus Catholic in Northern Ireland, Hindu versus Muslim in India

-Master narrative is at the national level though. What about regional variation in ethnic conflict?


-Design of political institutions determine whether ethnically diverse societies experience outbreaks of ethnic violence.

-Consociational or majoritarian polities, proportional representation or first-past the post, federal or unitary governments.

Ethnic conflict regulation[edit]

Readings: Constructivism and consociational theory (Lijphart 2001), A Democratic South Africa (Horowitz 1985)


-Consociational democracies are characterized by governments comprised of a grand coalition of parties, a proportional electoral system and proportional distribution of jobs in the public sector.

-How to develop power sharing system and how to identify ethnic groups?

-Pre-determination versus self-determination.

-Pre-determination: Ethnic groups identified in advanced and unchanging.

-Self-deterination: Ethnic identities are fluid and unclear. Groups should be allowed to identify and define themselves.

-Lijphart argues that successful consociation should be based on self-determination of ethnic groups.

Formation of multiethnic parties[edit]

-Horowtiz argues against consociationalism and proportional representation.

-Grand coalition parties are usually short-lived and ethnic parties have no incentives to compromise over ethnic issues.

-Calls for a preferential voting system with a majority threshold for victory.

-Election will be decided on second and third preferences.

-There is an incentive for parties to reach out to other ethnic groups for second and third preferences.

Regulating conflict outside formal institutions[edit]

Reading: Ethnic Conflict and Civil Society (Varshney 2001)

-Lijphart and Horowitz talk about political institutions at the national level. Does not provide regional disparities in ethnic violence.

-Associational life and everyday engagement between different ethnic groups in a community can prevent outbreaks of ethnic violence.

-Civic networks make neighborhood level peace possible by killing rumors, facilitating communication between different ethnic groups.

-No incentive for politicians to mobilize along ethnic lines.

-Everyday engagement insufficeint to maintain peace in larger cities.

-Formal interethnic associations are more important in cities and urban areas.

Ethnic Conflict in Eastern Europe[edit]

Reading: Commitment Problems and the Spread of Ethnic Conflict (Fearon 1998)

-Collapse of Communist governments created a "commitment problem" where there is no third party that can credibly guarantee agreements between different ethnic groups.

-Serbs and Croats in Croatia knew war would be costly and did not want to have ethnically pure separate nations.

-Within an independent Croatia, Serbs had no credible guarantees on their political, social and economic status.

Ethnic Conflict and Public Goods Provision[edit]

Reading: Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions (Alesina Easterly 1999)

-Different ethnic groups have different preferences on how tax revenue should be spent.

-Each ethnic group's utility level is reduced if other ethnic groups also use the same public good.

-Politicians have incentive to develop private patronage networks.

-Common pool problem leads to higher budget deficits.

Any feedback would be much appreciated. Amannavani (talk) 23:21, 20 March 2016 (UTC)

  • Linking to Amannavani's sandbox: User:Amannavani/sandbox. Adam (Wiki Ed) (talk) 19:28, 21 March 2016 (UTC)
    • This looks good, Amannavani. You have proposed a different structure to Akm2173, though, so I guess you need to discuss how this will fit together. It sounds like you have a good grasp of the literature. I was just slightly uncertain about the proposed section focusing on Eastern Europe. Why this region and not others? Be careful to not make it sound like a case study section in an essay. Cordless Larry (talk) 23:22, 21 March 2016 (UTC)

Peer Review, Notes by Sarah W.[edit]

Hi! I am peer reviewing your page for Professor Blattman's course.

  • I copy-edited the entire page.
  • My main suggestions are to 1) draw out differences between top-down and bottom-up approaches; 2) define "ethnic conflict" more throughly; 3) add a section about the relationship between ethnicity and nationalism. That could also include a discussion of secessionist movements.
  • Such great work on the theory. Great style and clear transitions between sections.

--Sarah Whittenburg (talk) 19:59, 24 April 2016 (UTC)

  • What are "top-up" and "bottom-down" explanations of ethnic conflict?
  • Good work on having definition, examples, and then a summation of the scholarly theory. Well structured.


  • Defining ethnicity as a "myth of common descent" requires more explanation. To a non-academic, this would sound very dismissive of ethnicity.
  • Could you give an example of what fighting for an ethnic group's position within society would entail?
  • This passage primarily focuses on the benefits of institutionalizing ethnic conflict with strong democracies. That focus greatly clashes with the article lead.
  • Well-structured passage – each of the two paragraphs convey a main point.

Primordialist Accounts

  • Replace direct quoting with paraphrasing.
  • Unclear how primordialism precludes thinking in terms of family resemblance [Horowitz]. If primordialist accounts emphasize kinship ties, wouldn't the reverse be true?
  • Is "ethnie" a special term or a typo?
  • Given the emphasis on perceived kinship ties, is it truly possible to have a state of a single ethnicity?
  • Need to cut down on single words and brief passages in quotation marks unless you're using a specific term.
  • Nice job explaining this school of thought.


  • A note on punctuation: "quote quote quote."[cite] You keep dropping periods outside the quotation marks like this: "quote quote quote".[cite] I've fixed it where I see it but wanted to give you a heads up for future writing. In MLA style papers, we write "quote quote quote" (page). But the rules are different with endnote vs. parenthetical citation.
  • Skeptical of the assertion that pre-existing ethnic differences have to exist for community leaders to exploit them. That was largely not the case with the Rwandan Genocide. The Belgians created the Tutsi population through arbitrary measurement of facial features. They did so to create a minority ruling class that was still be dependent on Belgian support. What constitutes preexisting difference?
  • Also, when you cite a scholar and don't link to their page, it might be good to drop a clause or two about why we care about their opinion. For instance: "Person X, a Professor at Harvard, argues..." I'm looking at the Hardin citation which doesn't link to his work or a particular page number. Nor do I know who he is.

--Sarah Whittenburg (talk) 16:31, 24 April 2016 (UTC)

Just a comment on your point about punctuation, Saw2188. Wikipedia uses the logical quotation style, which means we include terminal punctuation within the quotation marks only if it was present in the original material, and otherwise place it after the closing quotation mark. See MOS:LQ on this. Thanks for your work on the article, guys! Cordless Larry (talk) 17:24, 24 April 2016 (UTC)
To Cordless Larry: Thank you so much for letting me know! Will fix! --Sarah Whittenburg (talk) 18:04, 24 April 2016 (UTC)
Fixed! --Sarah Whittenburg (talk) 19:59, 24 April 2016 (UTC)


  • Great section. No suggestions. I see my comment above about the Rwandan Genocide is addressed here.
  • A bit unclear how instrumentalist and constructivist accounts differ, however. Does instrumentalism not stress the constructed nature of identities?

Ethnic conflict in the post-Cold War world

  • Not sure that ethnicity and nation are the same thing, as you assert here (without citation). I took a class last semester about nationalism and will send you the syllabus over email, if you'd like to tease out the relationship between nationalism and ethnic conflict. There's a huge literature of (wars of) secession at play there, too.
  • I think you should create a section that discusses the relationship between ethnicity and nationalism and create links between this page, nationalism, and ethnicity.
  • Briefly, some authors to look at: Herder, Anderson, Berlin, Fichte, J.S. Mill, John Acton. Those authors are also great for your discussion about how to productively channel ethnic tensions (in the definition section).
  • Also confused by the assertion that all wars occurred between nation-states until after the Cold War. Especially given that wars were more "between" lords/kings than "between" peoples (who had little political voice) in medieval Europe.
  • There's a mention here of asymmetric warfare that needs to be further elucidated, too.
  • Definitely tease out and summarize Huntington in 1-2 sentences, too. Great discussion of rationality at the end!

Ethnic conflict mitigation

  • Great direct style. Great content. Copy-edited bits for clarity and neutrality.


  • Great direct style. Great content.

Non-territorial autonomy and Secession and independence

  • Assuming these are placeholder sections. I discuss my ideas for secession/nationalism above.

Thoughts on the page[edit]

This page is really excellent. I can tell you've done a lot of work here, and I actually have very little to offer you in the way of peer review, because what you've written is already top-notch. Moreover, Saw2188 has already covered pretty much everything I have to say. Here are a few thoughts:

  • There is a serious dearth of citation throughout the page. This is understandable to an extent, because you've had to cover a lot of expository ground in consolidating the information on this page, but when whole paragraphs and crucial ideas go uncited, it gets a little problematic. It's clear that you've done your reading and are familiar with the literature, so the biggest thing I can say for you is that you should go through and carefully add citations to reflect the amount of research you've done.
  • I think you'd do well to expand on your initial definition of ethnicity as based on a "myth of common descent". This definition is good, but is provided very briefly, and I'd be willing to bet you can sink your teeth into it more. What does this myth of common descent look like? How is it different from the ways that other social groups (e.g. nations or states) are defined? (This would also address Saw2188's concern about demarcating the boundary between ethnicity and nationalism.)
  • This follows from the previous point: I think that the use of a direct quotation in your definition is unnecessary. As Saw2188 has already noted, you have a tendency to over-quote throughout the article, and I think the amount of quotation can probably be greatly reduced. Remember that Wikipedia prefers paraphrasing to quotation wherever possible. Moreover, if and when you do elect to quote, it would be helpful if you could tell us who it is that you're quoting (and why their voice is important in the field). With the myth of common descent, you drop the quotation in, but you don't tell us who it's from or why their definition is more important than someone else's.
  • Aside from these points, I think your definitions are rock-solid. Well done. I also think that the way you've structured the article, focusing on the differences between primordialist, instrumentalist, and constructivist interpretations of ethnicity, is quite clever.
  • You did dash in a brief example in your discussion of consociationalism, but it might behoove you to at least casually mention the case of Lebanon. Lebanese government is often held up as a paradigmatic example of consociationalism, and is also an excellent way to understand the flaws of this system. (Ethnic conflicts were not, in fact, reduced by Lebanon's constitutionally embedded consociationalism, and were exacerbated instead, resulting in the Lebanese Civil War.) That's just a thought, though.
  • Personally, I don't entirely agree with Saw2188 that the top-down/bottom-up distinction is necessary as an addition to your article, but I don't think it would hurt, either. You'd just have to be careful with the structure, because I can see how such a section could end up repeating a lot of the information in your primordialist/instrumentalist/constructivist model. (After all, primordialism is essentially a bottom-up view of ethnicity, while constructivism is top-down.)
  • Obviously, the sections on NTA and secession need expansion. If you've decided to leave those sections for someone else, I think that's more than fair, because you've already done a boatload of work here, but I would recommend putting in at least one source for each. I, at least, have never heard of NTA. Where did you come across this term? Dropping in that citation will give other editors a place to start researching when they expand this article down the line. Similarly, I'd add at least one citation on secession, and preferably an example or two (South Sudan and Bosnia spring to mind, with the perpetually contested case of Kosovo hanging in the background) if you have time.

Well done! It was a pleasure to read your work. Ianmckeachie (talk) 21:17, 24 April 2016 (UTC)

Peer review M. Greer[edit]

Content wise this is a well done article. The majority of the information is there and laid out in a way that is easy to grasp and synthesize. The previous editors elaborated in depth on may of the things I saw so I will not be redundant but I did want to stress a few things.

1. Citations! The article lacks citations throughout however you did a great job linking this page to others.

2. I think you could stand to expand further on what ethnic conflict is. Even though your page is not ethnic groups and you linked to it, I think it might be useful to provide and brief definition of an ethnic group as well. This would be especially useful in the Definition section.

3. Generally you did an excellent job of addressing the points you put forth in the lead in with the exception of the top-down bottom up explanations for ethnic conflict. Could you expand on these? This would be a good section to discuss more on the theories surrounding ethnic conflict.

4. In the lead in you mention examples of ethnic conflict. I think it would improve your article if you talked more about these examples. Possibly highlight the causes of the conflict and the outcome based on theories you provided in other sections of the article. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Michaelaelan (talkcontribs) 12:34, 25 April 2016 (UTC)

Peer review/ edit:

So I just did the edit on this google doc: I've tried editing the actual writing/ phrases to make it flow better, in addition to giving feedback about the political science, so I hope that helps. Shreyadhital (talk) 06:09, 25 April 2016 (UTC)

Peer review (Armand L.)[edit]

Since I am a bit late to the party, I will focus my observations on what I think you could add. I do think that the backbone of the article is solid. Clearly the research is well documented, and the fact that you are able to critically assess each category shows that you have been able to take a step back as opposed to just throwing on the page any theory you cam across. So, a couple of observations (they should be taken as suggestions for more content to add if you so wish, the article is already quite complete):

- In your definition, the proper "ethnic" dimension of ethnic conflicts remains hazy: is the Northern Ireland conflcit an ethnic conflict, or a religious one according to your definition? My advice would be to distinguish two fundamental dimensions of an ethnic group: 1) it names itself, 2) it is inherently political, meaning that name helps it distinguish itself from other groups that also have names in a political framework. This idea that ethnic characteristics are by nature divisive is central, in my opinion, to this concept. In northern ireland, you see that the universalizing aspects of each community (same language, religions which preach a holisitic community, sharing the territory of a same city, etc...) all disappear when the ethnic parameter is invoked.

- The danger in ethnic conflict seems to be to be the homogenous factor: each ethnic group's leitmotiv is to impose a certain hegemony (cultural, linguistic, political, religious, anything) on other recalcitrant groups. Thus, I would suggest to see if you could include a discussion on the context of an ethnic conflict: does it make a difference if the conflict is happening in a non-ethnic state, seeks to secede from a state, or is it trying to transform a state into an ethnic state? What is the role of the territory in ethnic conflicts? My guess is that actually it matters less: in Europe, the borders between ethnic groups have remained the same for centuries. How do ethnic conflicts impact the idea of borders? How have they shaped the modern conception of the nation state?

- As a corollary, in your section "ethnic conflict mitigation", you are discussing the methods employed by states to deal with ethnic conflicts. Yet, my hunch is that ethnic conflict is at the basis not something that is easily solved by a state because it is at the heart not a state-based conflict (unless the wars the state is waging are framed by the state itself as "ethnic"- there is an interesting tangent that you could pursue that would look at the way states have played the "ethnic card" to justify violence, but that's a big one). Indeed, ethnic conflcits seems to me to fall more under civil war than inter state war because we seldom have an institutional framework within which the ethnic conflict can uphold. Thus, as you announce in your lede that "bottom up" explanations exist, while never clearly raising that point later on, I think here you could include strategies that communities have implemented / or grassroots strategies that have been suggested in order to tackle the formation of ethnic polarization.

- Finally, I'm sure there is some literature (actually I have no idea but I suspect) on the impact of globalization on ethnic groups. What do you do with diasporas, for example? Migrants in industrial countries? Have we not internalized ethnic communities in modern polities? I believe that diasporas are actually a very important force for the crystallization of ethnic tensions back in their "original" territory, as they will develop stronger nationalist/ethnic opinions. Likewise, globalization has also enabled ethnic communities to live next to each other without engineering political violence. So there's definitely something to be said about that. Overall, this could really strengthen your "ethnic conflict mititgation" paragraph. Also an interesting dichotomy to explore would the institutional response vs more human, "metis-based" approaches.

Overall great work, definitely a hard topic to tackle, I hope my suggestions can help you advance the scope of your article. Don't hesitate to message me for questions/comments! — Preceding unsigned comment added by Adrià Ardèvol (talkcontribs) 21:39, 25 April 2016 (UTC)