Ethnic and Religious Conflict: Causes and Consequences

Wednesday 3-6
Barrows 129
Professor Crawford

Office Hours: Weds. 2pm



Course Requirements


Your Instructor

statement on Plagiarism




IAS 194 “The Political Economy of Ethnic and Religious Conflict” 

Week 1   (January 18) Introduction: Ethnic, Cultural, Religious Identity

Recommended: You may want to SKIM these articles in preparation for your assignment:

Week 2 (Jan. 25) Group Identity and National Identity: The Social Pshchological Perspective
Assignment 1: personal ethnohistory due


The readings for this week focus on group loyalty and the relationship between group loyalty and national loyalty. Please consider the overall question: Why do feelings of loyalty to one group generate negative or hostile feelings toward other groups?

 or consider it this way:  "are we as a human species somehow hardwired with xenophobic tendencies" because of:
our need for a collective or group identity, our need for identity with  groups of people who are similar to us, our in-group biases and loyalty, a strong propensity to stereotype other groups, and a propensity to shut out discrepant information  that might threaten our identity, etc. ?

We should also critically evaluate this literature:  Here are some questions to consider as you read:

  • What important factors does it leave out?
  • Does the evidence support line of argument?
  • Does membership in a group really lead people to favor that group and see others as less worthy in comparison?
  • Do the arguments about the origins of group identity also apply to national identity?
  • There is also an underlying question about whether we are hardwired to seek freedom, as western ideology claims.
    Wouldn't our search for freedom and focus on individualism conflict with our need for group identity and loyalty?
  • Lee Kwan Yu criticizes western society with its freedom that undermines group loyalty.  Druckman might agree with him.  Is he right?
  • Is he saying that his culture is superior to Western culture?
  • Does the imperialism of Western culture threaten to weaken other cultures?
  • Does Fareed Zakaria believe that Western culture is superior?
  • Is the brief Malik article a convincing support for Druckman's argument and a convincing critique of Western individualism?
  •  Finally, does Jerry Miller's account of ethnonationalism support the arguments of social psychology about group loyalty, in-group bias, etc.?  He makes a different causal argument, about economics, history, and psychology (but in the end, he talks about "propensities of the human spirit") , but would his argument really explain Nazi genocide of Jews and other "out groups?
  • he seems to be saying that every ethnonational group should have its own homeland.  What does this mean for ethnic/religious/communal/cultural conflict?       

Week 3  (Feb. 1) Group Identity, Exclusion, and conflict: The Primordial Perspective

The readings for this week suggest that the forces of globalization will NOT prevail—some even say that they SHOULD not prevail.  Even if the nation-state would disappear, they say that humans “naturally divide into groups, whether those groups be “civilizations,” “ethnic and racial groups,” or “religious” groups.  Those groups, like the nation state will be exclusive—that is, will exclude other groups, and stigmatize them

Last week we began by making a flow chart about the steps in a social-psychological argument about why identity groups come into conflict.  Druckman argued that it all begins with our need for belonging, our need for a group, rather than just an individual identity, and an in-group bias and in-group loyalty which leads to group cohesion.  That, however, shuts out information about other groups, leading us to create stereotypical images of our own and other groups.

The readings this week focus on how we stigmatize members of "out groups" and how we exclude them; there are different forms of exclusion, some of which lead to violence.
1. Kurzban an Leary make a "primordial" argument that starts with a need for evolutionary adaptation in order to survive.  Please create a flow chart that traces the steps in their argument.
2. Their argument differs from Druckman's argument in a major way and shows how group identity can more directly lead to conflict.  What is the basic difference between them?  What is your critique of their argument?
3. When you read Gamson's argument, please focus on the first part, just up to p. 11 ending before "The Dilemmas of Identity Politics"  Gamson is making a constructivist rather than a primordial or evolutionary argument.  He is talking about HOW stigmatization and exclusion can lead to conflict, not why. We will talk about the difference between these two types of arguments.  What do you think that the main difference is?
4. According to Gamson, what are the conditions necessary for genocide?
5. In what ways are direct and indirect exclusion radically different?
6. Huntington is also offering an explanation for cultural (which he calls civilizational) conflict.  He wrote the article over 20 years ago.  Does it ring true today?  what is your critique of his argument?
7. Please outline the steps of his argument in a flow chart.
8. What is your critique of his argument?  If you think he is right, why?  If you think he is wrong, why?

Week 4 (Feb. 8) The Political Economy of Ethnic and Religious Conflict: A Constructivist Perspective

Assignment 2: Research Question Due (1-2 pages)

"Is Ethnic Conflict Inevitable?" Responses to Jerry Muller's "Us and Them" Foreign Affairs, 2008

Rogers Brubaker: Ethnicity without groups. European Journal of Sociology (2002), 43:
            163‐177 (177-185 is a case study of Hungarians and Romanians in Transylvania for those interested)

Rogers Brubaker, "Religious Dimensions of Political Conflict and Violence," 2015

Crawford B. (2007).  Globalization and Cultural Conflict: An Institutional Approach.  In H. Anheier and Y. R. Isar (Eds.), The Cultures and Globalization Series: Conflicts and Tensions, (pp. 31-50).  Thousand Oaks  CA: Sage.

Arab youth hates life in French banlieue

Living in Lyon's banlieue

Saving France's Secular Identity?

Joan Scott


Provide examples of how this week’s readings could offer analytical tools in the process of formulating your research question?  Do readings from the primordial or social-psychological perspective offer better/more interesting tools?
Name a few examples of Brubaker’s 6 modalities that make religion a particular cause of conflict and violence. 
What is your critique of Brubaker’s argument in “Religious Dimensions of…”
Brubaker says:  “We need to break…with the point that ethnic conflict involves conflict between ethnic groups.” What is Brubaker’s argument in “Ethnicity without Groups?”  Do you buy it?  If so, why?  If not, why not? How does it contradict arguments from previous readings from the social-psychological or primordial perspective?  Would he say the same about religious conflict?
Here are some terms from this week’s readings that you should know:  ethnopolitical entrepreners, cultural entrepreneurs, politicized ethnicity, identity politics,  framing, state-shrinking, ascriptive resource allocation,  links between globalization and cultural conflict, illiberal democracy, diaspora community,

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities

Jonathan Fox, "Religion and State Failure: An Examination of the Extent and Magnitude of Religious Conflict from 1950 to 1996" International Political Science Review (Jan., 2004), skim research design, concentrate on pp. 55-60 and 64-71.

Edouard Machery and Luc Faucher Why do we Think Racially? Culture, Evolution, and

Week 5 (February 15)  Why are some ethnic and religious conflicts violent and others are not? 

Read:  Fearon J.  and Laitin D.(2000).  Violence and the Social Construction of Ethnic Identity. International Organization 54, (4), 845-877.
Phillip Zimbardo, “The Stanford Prison Experiment"


Posen, Barry, “The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict,” Survival, vol. 35, no. 1
            (Spring, 1993), pp. 27-47

Jonathan Fox, "Religion and State Failure: An Examination of the Extent and Magnitude of Religious Conflict from 1950 to 1996" International Political Science Review (Jan., 2004), pp. 64-71

Discussion questions:

As you all articulated in the discussion last week, constructivism can have a “so what?” quality about it.  Primordial explanations for cultural conflict also have a “so what?” quality.  As Willa pointed out, constructivist views are only valuable if they can be translated into applications in the field.  I would agree with Gamson and others that primordial explanations for ethnic and religious violence can be dangerous if they are applied to explain particular conflicts, because they lead to views that nothing can be done and reconciliation is not possible. 

A belief in primordialism could even be a cause of conflict

So here are the questions we will discuss on Wednesday

1. how can constructivist explanations (Laitin and Fearon, Zimbardo, and Brubaker in particular--but you can bring in others)  be broken down so that they can actually be useful in analysis?  Could primordial explanations be broken down in the same way?

2. Laitin and Fearon argue that violence/conflict constructs ethnic identities in more antagonistic and rigid ways than they would otherwise be and that antagonistic and rigid identities increase support for elites who provoked the conflict.  Was there evidence of this in Zimbardo’s Stanford prison experiment?  (looking at prisoners and guards as a metaphor for different cultural groups)  Can you see evidence of this in the real world?  Come up with some examples

3.  In your own paper for this class, how could the readings for this week provide an analytic focus for your own paper?  (you can incorporate your thoughts about this in your paper revisions) Think about the following (you do not have to address all of these points, just the ones that seem relevant):

  • In what specific ways are the group boundaries in your analysis (religious, ethnic, national) fluid or porous and ripe for "construction"?
  • What broad social and economic processes might be at work in constructing the identities that you are looking at?
  • What individuals or elite groups might be "agents of identity construction" in the way that they might go about framing conflict?
  • Why might publics so readily accept elite framing of the issues?
  • Are there local groups who want to attract elites or central authorities to their cause and use the construction of identity as a way to attract those elites?
  • How might fear of the "other" play a role in constructing identity; how might groups and organizations manipulate fears to their own advantage..
  • What myths and legends about "the other" might be at work in your project?  How might they play a role in constructing identity?
  • What insights did I miss that might apply to your topic?

Week 6 (February 22)  Consequences: The Refugee Crisis, Terrorism, The Rise of Political Opposition, and More

Assignment 3: Alternative Approaches to answering your research question Due (no length requirement)

When you finish the assignment, watch the film: "In this World" (2002), a docudrama following a refugee/migrant (which one?) from Pakistan to London
Week 7 (March 1) Resistance and Conflict Resolution    

Gamson, William A. "Hiroshima, the Holocaust, and the Politics of Exclusion."   American Sociological Review Vol. 60:No. 1., February 1, 1995.  Read pp. 11-18 (Iffat and James)

  • How does one's understanding of collective identities differ in each of these models: the  "lowest-common denominator" model and the "matrix of domination"?
  • What are the fundamental  obstacles to preventing genocide according to Gamson?
  • Gamson talks about opportunity costs in the Dilemna of Identity Politics, referring to the cost of presenting one identity within a challenging group as the sole identity. Lets talk about some examples of when this may be an issue specifically, and how might that damage the cause? Two examples:
    a. Example: people in the Lord’s Resistance Army may be asked to forsake their national identity for their Christian identity. How does this help remove people from universes of obligation? How does this isolate them from returning to life as normal?
    b. In France, how does the outgroup's (ISIS) effort to "muslimify" North African immigrants hijack this dilemma from the outside?
  • What are the challenges posed to the Ghandi-esk solution that Gamson proposes for the dilemma of adversarial frames? As a reminder, one solution posed by the Ghandian model was removing the sin from the sinner. Another was focusing on addressing the steps the perpetrator can take to solve the issue instead of focusing on the problem itself

a. Can complicated issues be fixed by these simple solutions? What if the solution isn’t known, such as what to do about the division of a state in the former Yugoslavia (Franny). Or what if the sin is contested, ie competing claims to the same land?
b. What are other possible solutions to this issue?

Stephan Rosiny, "Power Sharing in Syria: Lessons from Lebanon's Taif Experience" Middle East Policy Journal, Fall 2013 (Yasmin)

Background clarifications:

1. What is the Taif agreement?

2. How did the French mandate impact Lebanon and Syria? (similarities and differences) Did they perpetuate pervasive ethnic favoritism?

3. What major differences between Lebanon and Syria in terms of societal structure does Rosiny outline in his article and what is their impact?

4. Several quantitative studies of the late 1990s assessed Lebanon’s likelihood of ethnic conflict to be much higher than that of Syria. Now the opposite seems to be the case, drawing on Rosiny, why do you think such unexpected developments have taken place?

(This is particularly visible  in Tatu Vanhanen’s study on Ethnic Conflict and Ethnic Nepotism, which predicted in 1999 that Lebanon would have a likelihood score of 82.3 for the outbreak of ethnic conflict, while attributing a ‘mere’ 42.1 to Syria, ranking much lower than Lebanon and other countries experiencing relative stability today , such as Macedonia (64.0),  Canada (47.4) and Quatar (62.2) (Vanhanen 69ff.).

5. How has the post independence  “politicization of communal identities”  been expressed differently  in Lebanon in Syria and how has each state dealt with the ethnoreligious communities ?

6. How relevant are the socioeconomic cleavages emphasized by Rosiny to the aggravation of sectarian tensions in Syria?

7. Can we simply argue that Lebanon’s government supports and perpetuates ethnic entrepreneurs while Syria’s regime attempted  to suppress it?

8. What is the impact of differing political structures on the outbreak of violence?

Critical assessment:
1. Rosiny assumes that the violence in Syria has taken on a sectarian nature, do you agree? If  we question this assumption, does that mean Taif cannot be applied to Syria?

2. Rosiny discredits all alternatives to a Syrian Taif, do you agree with his arguments?

3. Is Rosiny a primordialist? What other conceptual lens can be detected?

4. Does Confessionalism , the form of consociationalism, visible in Lebanon impose religious and ethnoreligious identities onto its citizens ? Should ethnoreligious identity be institutionalized? Where is the national element?

From “The people want the fall of the regime” to “Christians to Beirut, Alawites to their graves!” – 
5. The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic as well as Rosiny warn of the risks of a retaliatory genocide against Alawites. How do you assess this risk?

6. How would a Syrian Taif fix what appears to be deeply engrained hatred?  Can trust be re-established simply through institutional reform?


Kaufmann, Chiam D., “Possible and Impossible Solutions to Ethnic Civil Wars,”
            International Security, vol. 20, no. 4 (Spring 1996), pp. 136-175. (Sabrina)

1. What does Kaufmann describe as the paradox of intermingled populations in ethnic civil wars?

2. What is the difference between Kaufmann's arguments and Muller's arguments in "Us and Them"?

3. What are the assumptions on which Kaufmann must rely in order for his thesis to remain valid?

4. Kaufmann asserts that competition for loyalties in ethnic conflict is not an issue since ethnic identities are fixed at birth. What would primordialists say to this? What would Brubaker say?


Fearon, James D., “Separatist Wars, Partition, and World Order,” Security Studies, vol. 13, no. 4 (July 2004), pp. 394-415. (Franny)

1. Fearon writes, "As long as controlling a recognized state apparatus is a desirable thing and nationhood is understood to ground claims to a state, ambitious individuals will try to pull together nationalist movements to claim statehood?" Can we supplement this argument against the use of ad hoc partition with other readings from the class? 

2. Fearon distinguishes two clusters of definitions of "nationalism". What are these two clusters, and why is it important to distinguish between the two? 

3. What is Fearon's criticism of the primordialist and modernist explanations of nationalist state separatist? Do you agree with this criticism? 

4. Fearon posits a solution that can replace ad hoc partition that includes an internationally agreed upon set of standards of human and minority rights. As a class, can we come up with and agree upon a set of rights? 

Heather Dubois, "Religion and Peacebuilding," Journal of Religion, Conflict, and Peace, Spring 2008 (James and Iffat) 

  • Explain this statement: "Herein, perhaps, lies the greatest potential of religious peacebuilding: the capacity to transcend the boundary of peacebuilding as a field of external expertise."
  • What are each of the categories in Dubois' typology for religious peacebuilding?
  • What are the strengths and challenges to religious peacebuilding?
  • Does religious peace building seem like a plausible first step method? Is it a strategy that could be deployed to settle armed conflict in the first iterations of dialogue, or one that would be more appropriately housed in reconciliation?
  • Does religious peace building in multi-religious states risk Taif-izing the country and reifying religious divides?
  • What would religious peacebuilding look like in practice at the author’s three different levels? Grassroots, middle and elite? Do these apply to your research topics?
  • How might focusing on religious reconciliation distract from other systemic issues that may drive conflict?


    Suggested readings:

    Abdul Aziz Said and Nathan C. Funk "The Role of Faith in Cross-Cultural conflict Resolution" (Presented at the European Parliament, 2001)

    Mohammed Abu-Nimer "A Framework for Nonviolence and Peacebuilding in Islam" Journal of Law and Religion, 2001

    Herbert Kelman, "The Role of National Identity in Conflict Resolution: Experiences from Israeli-Palestinian Problem-Solving workshops," in social identity, intergroup conflict, and conflict reduction (Oxford, 2001)

    Kuperman, Alan J., “Is Partition Really the Only Hope? Reconciling Contradictory
    Findings About Ethnic Civil Wars,”
    Security Studies, vol. 13, no. 4 (July 2004), pp. 314- 349.

    Carter Johnson, "Keeping the Peace after Partition: Ethnic Minorities, Civil Wars, and the Third Generation Ethnic Security Dilemma" 2015

                Downes, Alexander, B., “The Problem with Negotiated Settlements to Ethnic Civil
                Wars,” Security Studies, vol. 13, no. 4 (July 2004), pp. 230-279.

                Walter, Barbara F., “Designing Transitions from Civil War: Demobilization, Democratization, and Commitments to Peace,” International Security, vol. 24, no.1(Summer 1999), pp. 127-155.

                Reilly, Benjamin, “Democracy, Ethnic Fragmentation, and Internal Conflict: Confused Theories, Faulty Data, and the ‘Crucial Case’ of Papua New Guinea,” International  Security, vol. 25, no. 3 (Winter, 2000-2001), pp. 162-185.

    Yehudith Auerbach, "National Narratives in a Conflict of Identity"


    Duncan Bell, 'Mythscapes: Memory, Mythology, and National Identity,' British Journal of Sociology (2003)


    Week 8 (March 8) Illustrating the Explanations and Solutions:  the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
                   Derek Penslar, Israel in History: The Jewish State in Comparative Perspective (Routledge, 2007)
                Ilan Gur-Ze'ev and Ilan Pappé, “Beyond the Destruction of the Other’s Collective Memory: Blueprints for a Palestinian/Isrraeli Dialogue,” Theory Culture Society 2003 20: 93
                Beyond the Destruction of the Other's Collective Memory : Blueprints for a Palestinian/Israeli Dialogue

    Yehudith Auerbach, "The Reconciliation Pyramid—A Narrative-Based Framework for Analyzing Identity Conflicts" Political Psychology 2009 (Willa)

    1.) What is the difference between a narrative and a metanarrative? Is there an American metanarrative? Is it conscious or unconscious?

    2.) Auerbach proposes this framework to further empirical research on how to end identity conflicts. However, how might this be studied given that there are so many conflicts that are ongoing? How should we implement this proposal?

    3.) Auerbach's rhetoric often undercuts Palestinian perspectives without sources of reference except Israeli ones, while the Israeli perspectives she includes offer diverse perspectives and do have sources. Does she already have an agenda? Are there other explanations for this?

    4.) Auerbach also includes other identity conflicts to make her argument, including issues with the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the Sino-Japanese War. How does this compare to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has now been described by activists as apartheid? (In asking this question, it must be noted that this paper was published in 2009.)

    5.) Let's discuss the background and narrative Auerbach is speaking from. Is she guilty of also writing this proposal with a metanarrative to inform her biases?

    6.) The final outcome of the pyramid is only an idealistic possibility, according to Auerbach, but the proposal itself ultimately asks for both sides of a conflict to humanize (or perhaps, rehumanize) their adversary. What can we make of this if she implies that this is not possible? Or is it possible (with research)?

    7.) Auerbach synthesizes "warm" and "cold" approaches at reconciliation in her proposed framework, how does she do this? What elements is she incorporating?

    8.) Auerbach implies that the interwoven reality of material and identity conflicts are representative of a Weberian world. How, or why? Is this always true? (Note: Weber's 3-component theory of stratification: 1. wealth, 2. prestige, 3. power.)

    9.) How does Auerbach explain "chosen trauma" in the narratives of Palestinians and Israelis? (p. 297) How does this relate to the idea of "time collapse" from Volkan? (p.301)

    10.) "'Our' benign and conciliatory actions are attributed to our good and peace-loving nature, while our allegedly aggressive actions are portrayed as necessary reactions to the other's provocations. The same is used to explain the other's behavior. 'Their' benevolent actions are imposed by circumstances (e.g., international pressure), while malevolent behavior stems from their inherent wickedness and belligerence." (p.300) How can we relate the above quote to foreign policy in the United States? Of other nations? How does dehumanization other groups of people play out in media coverage?

    11.) Auerbach's pyramid doesn't seem to include the dynamics hierarchized power structures (e.g., privilege versus disenfranchisement, polarity, representation), and assumes that two sides of an identity conflict equally capable of reaching out to the other. How might her proposal change if we shed more light on this?

                Sandy Tolan, The Lemon Tree

    Week  9 (March 15) Illustrating Explanations and Solutions: African Americans and "ethnic conflict" in the United States: Exclusion, Identity Politics, Political Entrepreneurs, and Organization

    Assignment 4: Revised Research Question/ alternative approaches Theory/lit review due (7-10 pages)


    in class: Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution


    Alicia Garza, "A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement" (an illustration of the matrix of domination and the dilemma of identity politics.


    Week 10 (March 22)   Illustrating the Explanations and Solutions:  Northern Ireland, Rwanda

                James Anderson, "Partition, consociation, border-crossing: some lessons from the national conflict in Ireland/Northern Ireland," Nations and Nationalism 14 (1), 2008, 85–104.

    Eamonn Mccann, "The Troubles are Back" New York Times, October 5, 2015

                Peter Uvin, “Ethnicity and Power in Burundi and Rwanda: Different Paths to Mass Violence,” Comparative Politics 31:3 (1999), pp. 253-271.

                Burundi: "Managing Ethnic Conflict through Political Reform" (August 2015)

                Human Rights Watch, Report on Rwanda (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1999) Read: TEN YEARS LATER
    (Added April 1, 2004), INTRODUCTION (read through "The Structure") and HISTORY (through "The Single Party State")

                Film: From Hatred to Reconciliation in Rwanda

    Student Presentations (click on name for presentation slides)

    Week 11  (April 5)



    Week 12 (April 12) Student presentations



    Week 13 (April 19) Student presentations



    Week 14 (April 26) Student presentations


    Progress Reports from early presenters

    Final Paper Due May 10


    Other Recommended Readings

    Lori Peek "Becoming Muslim: The Development of a Religious Identity" Sociology of Religion 2005 66:3 215- 242

       Fearon, James D., “Separatist Wars, Partition, and World Order,” Security Studies, vol. 13, no. 4 (July 2004), pp. 394-415.

                Downes, Alexander, B., “The Problem with Negotiated Settlements to Ethnic Civil
                Wars,” Security Studies, vol. 13, no. 4 (July 2004), pp. 230-279.

                Kuperman, Alan J., “Is Partition Really the Only Hope? Reconciling Contradictory
    Findings About Ethnic Civil Wars,”
    Security Studies, vol. 13, no. 4 (July 2004), pp. 314- 349.

                Walter, Barbara F., “Designing Transitions from Civil War: Demobilization, Democratization, and Commitments to Peace,” International Security, vol. 24, no.1(Summer 1999), pp. 127-155.

                Reilly, Benjamin, “Democracy, Ethnic Fragmentation, and Internal Conflict: Confused Theories, Faulty Data, and the ‘Crucial Case’ of Papua New Guinea,” International  Security, vol. 25, no. 3 (Winter, 2000-2001), pp. 162-185.


    Politicized Collective Identity: A Social-Psychological analysis Simon, Bernd; Klandermans, Bert. American Psychologist56.4 (Apr 2001): 319-331.

    Beverly Crawford, "Explaining Cultural Conflict in Ex-Yugoslavia" in B. Crawford and R. Lipschutz, eds., The Myth of "Ethnic Conflict: Politics, Economics and Cultural Violence , Berkeley: International and Area Studies,

    A Place Called Chiapas