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Ethnic Fractionalization and Interstate Conflict. Eric Kaufmann Birkbeck College, University of London Ethnic Fractionalization. ELF = 1 - ∑ (share of group i out of a total of n groups), for all groups Chance that two random individuals will be from different groups.

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ethnic fractionalization and interstate conflict

Ethnic Fractionalization and Interstate Conflict

Eric Kaufmann

Birkbeck College, University of London

ethnic fractionalization
Ethnic Fractionalization

ELF = 1 - ∑ (share of group i out of a total of n groups), for all groups

Chance that two random individuals will be from different groups.

  • Tanzania: many groups, each with small share. High ELF.
  • N. Ireland or Sri Lanka: two big groups with big share, plus a few smaller ones. Middling ELF.
  • Japan, Botswana: one big group with most, and a few small minorities with small numbers. Low ELF.
elf international conflict theoretical perspectives
ELF & International Conflict: Theoretical Perspectives

Realism – external conflict deflects attention from elite illegitimacy (Van Evera 1994); helps to provide cohesion in fractious states : There are many in our times who ...[wish]... that this heated passion that is among us might be deflected into some war with our neighbors – Montaigne, 16thc. More internally pacified and united states less aggressive.


Constructivism/symbolism: nations constructed in ethnically diverse contexts may opt for universalistic ‘missionary’ nationalism (Roshwald 2006; Kumar 2003).

dominant minorities and ideology
Dominant Minorities and Ideology
  • USSR: expansionist socialism (Stalin, Trosky, Mikoyan…). 50% Russian.
  • Iran: Islamist mission (Ahmedinedjad). 45-50% Persian, 92% Shia.
  • Sudan: Islamist. 5% Arab, 70% Muslim
  • Iraq: 22% Sunni, 75-80% Arab, 97% Muslim
  • Syria: 11% Alawi, 90% Arab, 87% Muslim
  • S. Africa: 18% Xhosa, 80% Black African
19 th c usa missionary and ethnic nationalism
19thc USA: Missionary and Ethnic Nationalism
  • America is "possessed of an idea capable of infinite expansion. This idea is that of individual liberty …Our Gospel was meant for expansion… the world needs it, and it is our duty to give it to the world.“ – Rev. H. Carroll, 1898
  • “When you shall have extended your dominion over the states of Mexico and Central America, you will have added twelve million of a population, for the most part perfectly imbecile.” – John Bell, 1857
xenophobia and anti imperialism
Xenophobia and Anti-Imperialism
  • USA (Love 1997; Beisner 1968); Russia, Britain, Turkey
  • Saidemanand Ayres (2008) – Diverse ex-communist states more expansionist and irredentist;
  • Hungarians, Croats, Romanians, Russians reject irredentism, worrying it will bring in minorities
measuring interstate conflict
Measuring Interstate Conflict
  • Unit is the Dyad: i.e. France-Malawi 1991, France-Malawi 1992, France-Iraq 1992…
  • Militarized Interstate Disputes (MID) - 1748 events of 30,144, 1945-92
  • KOSIMO – 3142 events of 42,843, 1945-97
  • war, violent crisis, nonviolent crisis, and latent crisis (KOSIMO only)
  • Latent crisis: UK v Spain over Gibraltar since 1964, US v Cuba since 1962
hypothesis diversity and interstate conflict
Hypothesis: Diversity and Interstate Conflict
  • Ethnically fractionalized states too consumed with internal civil war when born
  • Once consolidated, search for unifying ideologies (liberalism, socialism, pan-Arabism, pan-Islamism, pan-Africanism)
  • External conflict unifies across lines of ethnicity and sect (i.e. Iran)
  • True also for major powers (USA, USSR)
table 1 domestic ethnic predictors of international conflict base model
Table 1. Domestic Ethnic Predictors of International Conflict (Base Model)

* p<.05; ** p<.01; ***p<.001

brics homogeneous and peaceful
BRICS: Homogeneous and Peaceful?
  • China: 92% Han
  • Russia: 80% Russian
  • Turkey, 70-75% Turkish
  • India: 80% Hindu (20-40% Hindi)
  • Brazil: 95% Portuguese speaking (50% white)
  • *Indonesia: 40% Javanese, 87% Muslim