POL 2104 C - Intro to Comparative Politics - Emily Regan Wills - 17 Mar. 03
Ethnicity and Violence
Ashutosh Varshney, “Ethnicity & Ethnic Violence”
• The field of studying ethnicity and ethnic violence is very open, & there are a variety of
• What theories you develop for predicting & understanding ethnic violence depends largely on
which cases you look at & what theoretical perspective you align yourself with.
What is Ethnicity?
• “[E]thnicity as a term designates a sense of collective belonging, which could be based on
common descent, language, history, culture, race or religion (or some combination of these).”
- Amulti-ethnic nation is possible (section 1.1, p. 2). Ethnic demands can become
national demands. It’s not necessary that one has geographic unanimity, but still a notion of
• Compare Jung’s formulation: “Race does not arise from biology; ethnicity does not arise from
culture; religion does not arise from spiritual belief; class does not arise from material
conditions. Instead, these categories are constituted by politics, and by the particular historical
processes that have organized access to power in ways that forge boundaries of exclusion and
selective inclusion.” (3)
- You can’t assume there’s a natural way in that ethnicity appears in cultural differences.
- More aggressively constructivist approach, not totally incompatible with Varshney’s
view, just different.
• Endogenous: the causes of something are internal to its structure
• Exogenous: the causes of something are external to its structure
• One way to understand different approaches to ethnicity is to understand the extent to which
they treat ethnicity as endogenous or exogenous to the political situation or conflict in question.
Conflict & Violence
• He says ethnic conflict & ethnic violence are not the same thing, & do not reduce to each other.
• Conflict may be inevitable; violence is not
- This is where his and Jung’s version of conflict and violence are overlapping,
compatible, but not conflicting with each other
• Conflict takes place through the existing political system; violence takes place outside of it.
• Ethnic violence is collective violence.
- He’s not interested in 1on1 violence
What is collective violence?
• “Collective violence can be de