March 27, 2014
Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflict
Gender and Politics in the Developing World: Making a Difference
Politics and ethnicity share a class relationship in the Third World. This is not to say that
expressions of ethnicity always result in violence. In the West, political interaction on the
African continent is also influenced by considerations of ethnicity.
The influence from ethnic mobilization has had onAfrican politics during the post-
Investigate how social scientist have defined ethnicity generally, and then explore ethnic
identities play a key role in relations between governors and the governed on the
In Africa, Latin America, the causes of ethnic conflict (Politization of ethnicity) have to
be sought more in the present than in the past
African governments remain unwilling to confront the implications of this world wide
surge in manifestations of ethnic nationalism
Such attitude is particularly dangerous at present because the political change under “
process of democratization” has made ethnic tensions more acute in many countries by
destroying the mechanism that have regulate ethnic relations and kept conflict in check
in the past
Ethnic politics in the 1990s is not the same as ethnic politics in the 1960s. In the sense,
there is a new ethnicity in Africa
After three decades of independence, ethnicity is more central than ever to the political of
manyAfrican countries. Why??
As political openings and multiparty elections have led to the formation of innumerable
overly or covertly ethnic political parties.
In Africa the causes of ethnic conflict (Politization of ethnicity) have to be sought more in
the present than in the past.
Ethnic conflict (Politization of ethnicity) is rooted in the present, its dynamics and the
possible solutions change. Ethnic politics in the 1990s is not the same as ethnic politics in
the 1960. In the sense, there is a new ethnicity inAfrica How about Latin America?
II – Definitions of Ethnicity
Ethic group would be a community of people who have the conviction that they have a
common identity and common date based on issues of origin, kinship ties, traditions,
cultural uniqueness, and a shared history and possibly a shared language (Thomson,
In this sense, an ethnic group is much like the “imagined community” of the nation.
Ethnicity, however, focuses more on sentiments of origin and descent, rather than the
geographical imperative of a nation.
Ethnicity :Acommunity solidarity based on shared ideas of origin , ancestry, tradition
Ethnic group groups dynamic and modern, not primordialist
III - The Creation of tribes: Ethnicity and Nationalism
Human being belongs to natural groups, which share common culture and language, and
sometimes the myth of common ancestry and which provide their members with a sense
of common identity (Ottaway, 1999, 300).
These natural groups are not political entities, but they often are and many believe should
be – the basis for the formation of one.
Tribe or nation: The concepts of ethnic group and nation are the same
In nineteenth century Europe, the natural group called “nation” = The nation-state then
came to be regarded as the model of the modern state.
o Within the “white nation,” there are no tribes
o No distinction of “white peoples’” ethnic background
Europeans also applied the XIX century concept toAfrica that human beings belong to a
natural group before they become part of a modern political entity.
Africans also belonged to natural groups, but since their groups were considered to be
more primitive, they were thought of not as nations, but as “tribes”. Nationalism was seen
as European phenomenon, tribalism as anAfrican one.
Three schools of thought dominate the debate:
1. The naturalistic theory of the primordialist (primordialist school) 2. The instrumentalist
1. The naturalistic theory or the primordialist
Thus, for theorists of the naturalist approach to ethnicity, ethnicity is inherently linked
to genetic luggage, that is to say, consubstantial with the birth
The ethnicity is inexorably linked to all the accidents and contingencies
surrounding the arrival (birth) of a person in the world. It is essentially biological, so
here it is a pure given, irreversible (Some elements that are central in the center of the
naturalistic theory of ethnicity is also a based assumptions of the school known as the
Given by blood – unchangeable
Ethnicity thus determines the membership of an individual belonging to a
genealogical and geographical hazard (fortuity) and unintended or chosen, but
predetermined by the history of this group (Freye 1992, Geertz 1963, Smith 1993:50-
Primordialist explanations seeAfrican “tribes” as something left over from the
Ethnicity or “tribalism” is frequently used as an auto-explanation of political
events in Africa
IsAfrica inherently ‘tribalistic?”
The media will often report that there has been violence on the continent because
Tribe Y has clashed with Tribe X
2. The instrumental theory
As for the instrumentalist approach to ethnicity, it is essentially a tool “used by
individuals, groups, or elites to obtain some larger, typically material end” (Lake &
Rothchild, 1998: 5).
o More based on ideology
In this perspective, ethnicity is a resource potential carrier of stories, and symbolic
artifacts that can be activated, used by entrepreneurs of violence like those of
many armed militias in Ituri in the DRC. Read also Robert Ted Gurr (2000) ou
Brass (1991) “Ethnicity does not refer to an essence that somebody has, but a collection of
resources for social action” (Poutignat Feinart & Streiff, 1995: 182).
Ayoob says that ethnicity is a concept fluid and flexible and is subject “to change
depending on the context in which it operates at any pints in time” (1997: 127).
The issue of ethnicity or identity is a catalyst that comes very often in structuring
and stimulating the mobilization of armed groups. It has always been a translation
of idioms in more indigenous political
Ethnicity is a pure construction (with a special purpose)
For constructivists, the fact that ethnicity is a social construct which is the sum of
human actions/choices. The referent object is the individual and society in relation in
regard of the binominal security/insecurity.
*On this approach (security/insecurity), read Ganguly and Taras (!998), Krause and
Williams (1997), Crawford and Lipschutz (1997), Buzan and Waever (1993: 42).
o Ex: Hutus vs. Tutsis in Rwanda –power shift caused by German colonizers
o In Europe – different nuances of the German language
In this perspective, the main threats to the various armed groups face relate to different
dimensions of their identity (language, faith, cultural expression), which allow them to
distinguish themselves from other groups. (Threats often manipulated, built by
contractors who manage identity often armed groups = security dilemma)
Constructivism has fuelled criticism against the colonizers, who are often regarded as the
inventors of ethnic groups, or contributed to handle a substrate that already existed
Ex: early colonizers Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi (Rwanda-Burundi present)
They have well worked ethnicities, rebuilt ethnicities. Hence its instrumentalization “in
many conflicts and wars, whether inAngola, Mozambique, Rwanda, Zaire and in other
regions, great powers are also played ethnicity against the nation” (Thual, 1999: 159).
The colonizers have thus increased the different divisions which pre-existed in the society
and then have re-appropriated and rearticulated these ethnic categorizations (Amselle and
Mbokolo Elikya, 1985).
Ethnic Politics: Ethnicity as a method of modern political mobilization
I- Condition of mobilization and relation to “Insiders and Outsiders” Ethnicity is frequently portrayed as having been a hindrance toAfrica’s political