David Lake and Donald Rothschild, (eds.) The International Spread of Ethnic Conflict (1998).

Summary: The authors start with the development of three broad approaches to the study of the frequency of ethnic manifestation: 1) the Primordialist approach (ethnic conflict is merely an extension of the ‘natural’ desires of distinct ethnic groups); 2) the instrumentalist approach (which explains ethnicity in terms of competition among ethnic grous to outbid each other and to emerge as the dominant power centre); and, 3) the Constructivist approach (which looks to the variable role of social interactions and the resulting change in the construction of ethnicity at the levels of clan, religion, region or nationalist grouping.)  The second major thrust of the project is to articulate the conception of diffusion  of ethnic conflict between and among the states.  The authors note that the political setup in one country can very easily spread to another country with similar political approaches. Diffusion can occur in four ways:

* 1) Events such as the sudden flow of refugees to an adjoining state or even outside of it may change the ethnic composition precipitating social turbulence.

* 2) Ongoing ethnic conflict in one state leading towards ethnic mobilization and solidarity in terms of consolidation of ethnic gains may have ‘demonstration effects’ for competing ethnic groups in other states to raise their profile and in their set of demands.

* 3) Ethnic conflict abroad may lead groups to update their beliefs about the efficacy of the political safeguards contained in their existing ethnic contracts

* 4) Ethnic conflict in one state and its probable success/failure and the commitment of outside powers to contain it may have significant impact on other states to re-evaluate their political strategy in order to maximize their advantage and leverage.

The authors also prescribe solutions for the management of ethnic conflict – most notably the notion of power sharing arrangements (this links in well with the parties literature)


Important Insight: The concept of diffusion, and how ethnic conflict in one state can spread to others is key