Political Science Ethnic Politics
by
Johanna Birnir, Agatha Hultquist
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0209

Introduction

The study of ethnicity and ethnic minorities in politics is vast and covers subject areas ranging from ethnic identity formation to how ethnic cleavages interact with electoral law to shape party systems to the correlates of ethnic war. While mutually aware of each other rather than being balkanized, studies of ethnicity have evolved rather independently within each of the subgenres of political science. Studies of ethnicity also often have been geographically circumscribed within each topic. For example, many scholars examine ethnicity and institutions or ethnicity and conflict exclusively and sometimes in particular regions or even specific countries only. However, these two subjects do also cross paths in, for example, the analysis of institutional influences on ethnic aggregation of preferences through electoral systems and consequent conflict outcomes. Indeed, the intersection of ethnicity, institutions, and conflict is perhaps the area that brings most academics and policymakers together to work on finding solutions to the pressing ethnic conflicts of today. Such overlap is, however, the exception rather than the rule. Instead, streams in the study of ethnicity in politics tend to follow the theoretical and methodological trends in the general political science subjects and/or areas where the scholarly work resides. To be certain, within each subgenre scholars of ethnicity have made many important contributions, clarifying how ethnicity, for instance, shapes party systems, policy, and war.

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