Conditions of conviviality and conflict

Conditions of conviviality and conflict

Steven Vertovec
Andreas Wimmer (University of California Los Angeles)
Stefan Lindemann


This project seeks to enhance our knowledge of the conditions – political, social, economic – that are likely to enhance peace and conviviality between ethnic movements, parties, and leaders, even when ethnicity has been politicized and politics is perceived as a matter of power relations between ethnic communities and their leaders. Most research has so far focused on conflict and tried to understand the circumstances under which ethnic tensions will escalate into violence or even full-scale civil war. Much less attention has been given to the study of "negative" cases, i.e. situations in which one could expect competition and conflict but in which peace and concordance prevail.

This project seeks to address this question through a controlled comparison of pairs of cases that can be expected to display the same propensity for peace or conflict, but with dissimilar outcomes: One country has traveled down the road of escalation and violence, while the other one has maintained conviviality and peace. Such a project depends, obviously, on the identification of countries with similar conflict propensities. We do so by relying on recent quantitative research on ethnic conflict (Wimmer, Cederman and Min, 2009, "Ethnic politics and armed conflict", in American Sociological Review 74 (2):316-337.), which is based on a new dataset on ethnic power relations in all countries of the world since 1945. This research has identified different ethno-political configurations of power that are particularly war-prone.

This project builds on this previous endeavor by systematically comparing the political history of pairs of countries of which one was peaceful while the other suffered from an outbreak of violence, despite displaying very similar ethno-political configurations of power (i.e. similar number and size of excluded groups and of power-sharing partners). The project seeks to identify those political developments that might account for the different outcomes: different patterns of protest, mobilization and de-mobilization; the occurrence or absence of state repression or strategies of co-optation; different constellation of alliances with external actors, and so forth.