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Identity, repression, and the threat of ethnic conflict in a strong state

Christine S Mele and David A Siegel
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Christine S Mele: HR Analytics, CenturyLink, USA
David A Siegel: Department of Political Science, Duke University, USA

Journal of Theoretical Politics, 2017, vol. 29, issue 4, 578-598

Abstract: Faced with repression from a strong state, one might expect minority ethnic groups to attempt to assimilate into the dominant group to make themselves seem less threatening. However, this conceptualization of threat elides its tactical components. Oppressed minority groups, even under strong states, may engage in anti-state operations in order to reduce the repression they face, and these operations may succeed with greater likelihood the more they assimilate. Anticipating this, strategic states may be more likely to preemptively raise repression in the face of assimilation in order to reduce this threat. Our model formalizes this logic, illustrating that it can be optimal for the minority group to differentiate even when doing so is strictly detrimental to mobilization. Differentiation is more likely to obtain when increased repression is more costly to the group and when the group’s anti-state operations are more capable of compelling the state to substantially reduce repression.

Keywords: Ethnic conflict; ethnicity; game theory; identity; state repression (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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