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Religion versus Ethnicity as a Source of Mobilisation: Are There Differences?

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  • Frances Stewart

    ()
    (Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford)

Abstract

The root causes of most violent conflicts lie in economic and political factors, often horizontal inequalities of various types. Yet people are organised, united and mobilised by identities, in particular ethnic or religious ones. Most conflict analyses treat religion as a subset of ethnicity. This paper explores differences between these two identities, both by reviewing literature and by analysis of some recent surveys of perceptions in a number of conflict-affected countries. It finds many similarities in mobilisation, with both identities used instrumentally by leaders, but both ‘essentialised’ and ‘believed in’ by those who are mobilised. Yet in both cases, leaders have to cultivate the identity of those mobilised, and that of the ‘other’, to induce violence on any scale. Religious organisation and external support are often stronger than in the case of ethnicity, but there is no evidence that religious conflicts are more deadly than ethnic ones. Preliminary evidence suggests that in the many cases where both identities are present and overlapping, the identity along which mobilisation occurs is determined by demographics and according to the identity which is perceived as being used politically in the allocation of government jobs and contracts. The need for both religious and ethnic leaders to work at mobilisation for some time preceding a conflict gives rise to possibilities of monitoring and intervention to prevent conflict occurring.

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File URL: http://www.microconflict.eu/publications/RWP18_FS.pdf
File Function: First version, 2009
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by MICROCON - A Micro Level Analysis of Violent Conflict in its series Research Working Papers with number 18.

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Length: 55 pages
Date of creation: 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mcn:rwpapr:18

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Keywords: Conflict; mobilisation; ethnicity; religion; horizontal inequality;

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  1. Patricia Justino, 2008. "Poverty and Violent Conflict: A Micro Level Perspective on the Causes and Duration of Warfare," Research Working Papers 6, MICROCON - A Micro Level Analysis of Violent Conflict.
  2. Eli Berman & Laurence R. Iannaccone, 2005. "Religious Extremism: The Good, The Bad, and The Deadly," NBER Working Papers 11663, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. David Turton, 1997. "War and ethnicity: Global connections and local violence in North East Africa and former Yugoslavia," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 25(1), pages 77-94.
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