The identity/violence nexus: Measuring the relationship between ethnic group identity and intensity of violence in contentious political arenas

Date of Completion

January 2009


Political Science, International Relations|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies




This dissertation argues that ethnic group identity is a causal factor of deadly violence. Ethnic group identity is not a sufficient cause of ethnic war, however; rather, it is a remote and necessary one. In order for violence to ignite, other more proximate events must occur that directly precipitates ethnic conflict. In addition, this scholar seeks to understand how ethnic group identity influences group behavior during conflict, e.g., when mass protests might turn violent and when they might not. This dissertation asserts that in contentious political arenas, the strength of ethnic group identity has a positive relationship with the intensity of ethnic conflict. The following propositions are tested: stronger ethnic group identities are likely to correlate with violent ethnic conflict; conversely, weaker ethnic group identities are likely to correlate with political rather than violent ethnic conflict.^ The hypothesis of this project, then, is that as strength of ethnic group identity increases, the intensity of an existing ethnic conflict also increases. To test this hypothesis, I have created an index that scales the strength of ethnic group identity. The Ethnic Group Identity Index (EGII) determines if a group's strength of identity is weak, moderate, or strong. This scholar argues that the more cultural and ethnic indicators a group has that differentiates it from all other groups, the higher that group's strength of ethnic identity will be.^ One may then expect that groups with a stronger ethnic identity will experience more intense ethnic conflict. Further, this scholar also created the Intensity of Violence Index (IVI). The IVI allows scholars to score, and therefore compare and contrast, any ethnic conflict based upon the most intense violence found in a relationship between two or more ethnic groups. This dissertation expects that the stronger an ethnic group measures on the EGII, the higher that group's score will be on the IVI.^