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Polarization and Ethnic Conflict in a Widened Strategic Setting


  • Erika Forsberg

    (Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University,


Ethnic groups and conflicts often transcend country borders, indicating that notions of relative strength and resolve may also surpass such borders. This study focuses on the association between ethnic polarization and conflict in a widened strategic environment, encapsulating each state that experiences ethnic conflict and its neighboring states, and involving contagion processes. Two claims are presented. First, when a state experiences ethnic conflict, neighboring states that are ethnically polarized are more likely to also experience ethnic conflict. Second, when a group involved in ethnic conflict has a kinship tie to a group in a neighboring state, the latter group is increasingly likely to be inspired to challenge the government and end up in ethnic conflict. This should be especially likely if the group resides in a state characterized by ethnic polarization. To evaluate these claims, this article employs logit regression on a global dataset covering the period from 1989 to 2004. The empirical analysis supports the first claim; polarized states are indeed associated with an increased likelihood of contagion processes. The findings also demonstrate that kinship links make contagion more likely; however, this effect is not conditioned by the level of ethnic polarization. The results are robust to a series of alternative specifications. In conclusion, these findings point to the importance of incorporating a widened strategic setting in the analysis when examining the association between ethnic polarization and civil conflict.

Suggested Citation

  • Erika Forsberg, 2008. "Polarization and Ethnic Conflict in a Widened Strategic Setting," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 45(2), pages 283-300, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:45:y:2008:i:2:p:283-300

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    Cited by:

    1. Silve, Arthur & Verdier, Thierry, 2018. "A theory of regional conflict complexes," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 434-447.
    2. Giménez-Gómez, José-Manuel & Zergawu, Yitagesu-Zewdu, 2018. "The impact of social heterogeneity and commodity price shocks on civil conflicts," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 40(5), pages 959-997.
    3. Arip Muttaqien & Denisa Sologon & Cathal O'Donoghue, 2018. "Earnings polarization, ethnicity, and regional perspective in Indonesia," WIDER Working Paper Series 106, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    4. Giménez Gómez, José M. (José Manuel), 2016. "Linking social heterogeneity and commodity price shocks to civil conflicts," Working Papers 2072/290744, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Department of Economics.
    5. Buscema, Massimo & Ferilli, Guido & Sacco, Pier Luigi, 2017. "What kind of ‘world order’? An artificial neural networks approach to intensive data mining," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 46-56.
    6. Kyle L. Marquardt & Yoshiko M. Herrera, 2015. "Ethnicity as a Variable: An Assessment of Measures and Data Sets of Ethnicity and Related Identities," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 96(3), pages 689-716, September.

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