Constructivist Theories of Ethnic Politics Kanchan Chandra, ed.
Constructivist Theories of Ethnic Politics Table of Contents
Kanchan Chandra Part 1: Concepts 2. What is Ethnic Identity: A Minimalist Definition.
Kanchan Chandra 3. Attributes and Categories: A New Conceptual Vocabulary
For Thinking About Ethnic Identity Kanchan Chandra
4. How Ethnic Identities Change
Kanchan Chandra 5. A Language for Thinking About Ethnic Identity Change
Kanchan Chandra and Cilanne Boulet Part 2: Models 6. A Baseline Model of Change in an Activated Ethnic Demography
Kanchan Chandra and Cilanne Boulet 7. Modeling the Evolution of an Ethnic Demography
Maurits Van der Veen and David Laitin 8. How Fluid is Fluid? Ethnic Demography and Electoral Volatility in Africa Karen Ferree 9. Ethnicity and Pork: A Virtual Test of Causal Mechanisms
David Laitin and Maurits Van Der Veen 10. Constructivism and Ethnic Riots
Steven Wilkinson 11. Ethnic Defection in Civil War
Stathis Kalyvas 12. Identity, Rationality, and Emotion in State Disintegration and Reconstruction Roger Petersen 13. Secession of the Center: A Virtual Probe of the Prospects for a Punjabistan
Constructivist Theories of Ethnic Politics Abstract Although theories of the formation of ethnic groups are driven by the constructivist assumption that ethnic identities can change over time, theories of the effect of ethnicity on economic and political outcomes are driven by the primordialist assumption that these identities are fixed. This book is a first cut at building and rebuilding -- our theories of politics and economics on a fortified constructivist foundation. It proposes a new conceptual framework for thinking about ethnic identity. It uses this framework to synthesize constructivist arguments into a set of testable propositions about how and why ethnic identities change. It translates this framework and the propositions derived from it -- into a new, combinatorial language. And it employs these conceptual, constructivist, and combinatorial tools to theorize about the relationship between ethnicity, politics and economics using a variety of methods. The conceptual tools provided by this book open new avenues for theory building by representing the complexity of a world of fluid, multiple and endogenous ethnic identities in an analytically tractable way. The theoretical arguments challenge the conclusions of previous theories according to which ethnic diversity and its analogs typically produce regimes that are less stable, less democratic, less well-governed, less peaceful, poorer, and marked by slower rates of economic growth than regimes in which the population is ethnically homogeneous. Taking the possibility of change in ethnic identity into account, these arguments show, dismantles the logics linking ethnic diversity to such negative outcomes. Even more importantly, this book changes the questions that we can ask about the relationship between ethnicity, politics and economics.
Chapter 1 Introduction
Kanchan Chandra If you are born poor, you may die rich. But your ethnic group is fixed. (Economist, May 14-21, 2005, 80). So goes the primordialist way of thinking about ethnic identity. According to it, each of us belongs to one and only one ethnic group, that group membership remains fixed over a lifetime, and it is passed down intact across generations. Wars begin and end, states grow and die, economies boom and crash, but through it all, ethnic groups stay the same. This way of thinking about ethnic identity drives theorizing in the social sciences on the relationship between ethnicity and political and economic outcomes and processes. Like many influential ideas, its power lies in its invisibility. It is rarely stated explicitly and almost never defended. But it is pervasive in the common sense assumptions that inform statements about other things. When political scientists and economists build and test theories of the relationship between ethnicity and democratic stability, party systems, voting behaviour, economic growth, civil war, riots, state formation, state collapse, welfare spending, public goods provision and just about everything else, we assume, almost without exception, that the ethnic identities that describe individuals and populations are singular, timeless and fixed for all time.1 Public policies and media analyses often make the same assumption. It informs most policy responses to the problem of ethnic diversity such as power-sharing executives, federalism, affirmative action, proportionality in the distribution of public goods, quotas in legislative, electoral or party institutions, and cultural and educational rights. Indeed, the very characterization of ethnic diversity as a problem rests on this assumption
1 In general, while constructivist assumptions dominate studies of ethnogenesis and ethnic identity change (indeed, even asking the question of how ethnic identities are created and change presumes a constructivist perspective), primordialist assumptions dominate theories that are concerned with the effect of ethnic identity on some political or economic outcome. For a survey of primordialist assumptions in theories of ethnicity, politics and economics in general, see Chandra 2001a, 2006a and 2008a. For a survey of these assumptions in theories of democracy, see Chandra 2001b, Chandra 2005 and Chandra 2008b and Chandra and Boulet, Chapter 6 in this volume. For a survey of these assumptions in empirical work, see Chandra 2009a, 2009 b, Chandra and Wilkinson 2008, Posner 2004, Laitin and Posner 2001. For a discussion of these assumptions in theories and arguments about empirical works on specific subjects such as theories of violence, see individual chapters in this volume. For a representative sample of these works on democratic stability, see Horowitz 1985, see Rabushka and Shepsle 1972, Horowitz 1985, Mill 1991, Rustow 1970, Dahl 1971, Rothschild 1981, Geertz 1973, Chua 2003, Guinier 1994, Snyder 2000 and Mann 2005, on party systems and voting behaviour, see Ordeshook and Shvetsova 1994 and Cox 1997, on economic growth see Easterly and Levine 1997, on violence, see Posen 1993, Van Evera 1994, Fearon 1993, Snyder 2000, Mishali-Ram 2006, Blimes 2006, Hegre et al 2001, Montalvo and Reynal Querol 2005, Reynal-Querol 2002, Cederman et al 2009, Cederman et al 2010, Wimmer et al 2009, Elbadwi and Sambanis 2002, Collier and Hoeffler 2001 and Fearon and Laitin 2003, on secession and state collapse, see Geertz 1973, Premdas 12-29 and Smith 1976, and on public goods provision and welfare spending see Easterly and Levine 1997 and Alesina Baqir and Easterly 1999. Perhaps the best way to establish this rule is to search for the exceptions. Only a handful of recent exceptions theorize about the effect of ethnic diversity on some outcome while allowing for some aspect of change in ethnic identity. These include Laitin 1999, Beissinger 2002, and Appadurai 1996 and Chandra 2005 a.
(Chandra 2001a and b, 2005, 2006a, 2008a and 2008b). And one only has to glance at newspaper accounts of ethnic conflicts in countries across the world -- Shias, Sunnis and Kurds in Iraq, Serbs and Croats in the former Yugoslavia, Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda, Tamils and Sinhalas in Sri Lanka, Malay and Chinese in Malaysia to see that they are written as if the groups in question have always existed and will live on unchanged, no matter what happens to the countries themselves. But ethnic identities are not singular, nor are they fixed. Constructivism -- the principal theoretical revolution in the study of ethnic identities in anthropology, literature, history, political science and sociology -- has shown us that. They can change, sometimes on a very large scale. Consider some examples: The Native American population in the United States grew by 50 percent in 1970, by more than 80 percent in 1980, and over 30 percent in 1990. (Hitt 2005). The number of Muslims in Bosnia increased by over 75% between 1961 and 1971. During the same period, the number of Yugoslavs in Bosnia decreased by 84% (Bringa 1995, 28).
31% of the population of Britain thought of themselves as English in 1992. Less than ten years later, the number had increased to 41%. The same shift in identity was taking place among Welsh and Scots who might have called themselves British earlier. (Economist, April 2 2005, 51).
In Puerto Rico, the majority of the population changed from negro or mulatto to white over fifty years (Dominguez 1997, 267).
In Brazil, the opposite happened -- many of those who identified themselves as white or black switched to calling themselves brown. The result was the transformation of Brazil from a white to a non-white majority nation in thirty years. (Nobles 2000, 85) In Sri Lanka, many of those who had hitherto called themselves Kandyan and Low Country abandoned these regional identities to unite in a cohesive Sinhala identity. The result was the transformation of Sri Lankas multipolar ethnic demography into a bipolar one. (Tambiah 1986 101-102, Rajasingham 1999 112-114). In the Russian republic of Bashkoristan, the percentage of the population which identified itself as Bashkir fell by one-half in the first three decades of the twentieth century, while Tatar population more than tripled in number. A period of relative stability followed, but forty years, a similar pattern occurred once more, as the Bashkir population fell, and the Tatar population increased again. In both cases, large numbers of those who once identified as Bashkir reclassified themselves as Tatar (Gorenburg 1999, 557-8). These astonishi