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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ethnic identity, political identity and ethnic conflict: simulating the effect of congruence between the two identities on ethnic violence and conflict

  • Author(s): Wigmore-Shepherd, Daniel Sebastian
  • et al.

This thesis outlines and presents an alternative hypothetical process to the emergence of ethnic conflict. Ethnic conflicts, rather than being dependent upon pre-existing ‘ancient hatreds’, are instead the result of a congruence between ethnic and political identity which grants individuals the ability to use ethnicity to identify and eliminate political threats. This hypothesis is formed by the examination of three case studies of ethnic conflict: Lebanon, Northern Ireland and Croatia. This hypothesis is then formalised and tested using an agent based simulation in which agent interactions are dependent upon ethnic and political identity and the congruence between the two. As predicted there was a strong positive correlation between how accurately ethnic identity reflected political identity and the level of ethnically motivated violence in the simulation, although the relationship was not linear. Furthermore the effect of a shift in congruence was found to be roughly comparable to the effect of initialising agents with a moderate level of pre-existing ethnic antagonism.

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