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Colonial legacy, polarization and linguistic disenfranchisement: The case of the Sri Lankan War

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  • Castañeda Dower, Paul
  • Ginsburgh, Victor
  • Weber, Shlomo

Abstract

We introduce a new ethnolinguistic polarization measure that takes into account the impact of historical factors on intergroup relations in Sri Lanka. During the colonial era, intergroup relations changed considerably due, in part, to the uneven spread of the English language on the island and its role in British governance. Accordingly, our measure is sensitive to regional differences in English language acquisition before independence. By using a data set on victims of terrorist attacks by district and war period during the protracted war in Sri Lanka, we find that our measure is more strongly correlated with the number of victims, and is associated with 70% more victims, on average, than is a polarization measure based on the context-independent linguistic distances between groups. Thus, the historical underpinnings of our measure illustrate in a quantitative manner the relevance of history for understanding patterns of civil conflict.

Suggested Citation

  • Castañeda Dower, Paul & Ginsburgh, Victor & Weber, Shlomo, 2017. "Colonial legacy, polarization and linguistic disenfranchisement: The case of the Sri Lankan War," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 440-448.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:127:y:2017:i:c:p:440-448
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2016.12.006
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Samuel Bazzi & Matthew Gudgeon, 2017. "The Political Boundaries of Ethnic Divisions," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2018-005, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    2. Victor Ginsburgh & Juan D. Moreno-Ternero, 2017. "Compensation Schemes for learning a Lingua Franca in the European Union," Working Papers ECARES ECARES 2017-07, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Conflict; Polarization; Sri Lanka; Colonial legacy; Linguistic disenfranchisement;

    JEL classification:

    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • F54 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - Colonialism; Imperialism; Postcolonialism

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