A Constructivist Model of Ethnic Riots

Steven I. Wilkinson

in Constructivist Theories of Ethnic Politics

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199893157
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980079 | DOI:
A Constructivist Model of Ethnic Riots

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This chapter proposes a model linking riots to change in an activated category or attribute dimension, illustrating it with examples from Ireland, India and the American South. It argues that riots are the means through which political entrepreneurs interested in winning elections either activate new ethnic categories and attribute-dimensions or change those previously activated. The chapter starts with the baseline model introduced by Chandra and Boulet, conceptualizing elections as a process in which political entrepreneurs string together “minimum winning” combinations of attributes. But rather than treating all combinations of attribute-values in a population’s repertoire as equally feasible, it introduces the idea politicians will consider as feasible only “minimum connected winning coalitions,” which minimize distance among coalition partners along some issue-dimension that politicians regard as most important, such as economic reforms. The chapter then shows how, from a choice of multiple winning coalitions, political entrepreneurs use riots to stabilize an ethnic demography around a minimum winning coalition that consists of attribute-values close to each other on an underlying issue dimension.

Keywords: ethnic; violence; riots; elections; winning coalitions; Ireland; India; race; south

Chapter.  12862 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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