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Unit information: Ethnic Politics in 2018/19

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Unit name Ethnic Politics
Unit code POLI30019
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Flesken
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit aims to give students a deeper understanding of ethnicity and the politics of ethnic cleavages in both European and non-European contexts. What is ethnicity and why and how does it matter in determining both the social and political behaviour of individuals, groups, and states? Does ethnic diversity affect the stability and quality of democracy? Does it increase the risk of violent conflict? And how can we manage such conflicts? These questions suggest some of the main themes we will consider in this unit. To develop answers to these questions, we will begin with a discussion of foundational works on ethnicity and its role in social and political relations, which will enable us to compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to understanding ethnic politics. We will then examine ethnic politics in various regions of the world, including countries such as Belgium, Kenya, the Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, and the UK. We will particularly focus on various forms of ethnic conflict, from discrimination and xenophobic parties to civil wars and genocide. We will consider how different actors use ethnicity and how institutions shape ethnic conflict before evaluating policies and practices of conflict management.

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to:

  • define and critically assess concepts used in the discussion of ethnic politics
  • apply the analytical concepts used in the unit across a range of cases
  • explain and evaluate the use of data and methods appropriate to the field
  • critically evaluate measures taken to manage ethnic conflict

Teaching details

10 x 1 hour lecture

10 x 2 hour seminar.

Assessment Details

1500 word literature review on the ethnic politics of a chosen country (25%)

3000 word essay (75%)

Both assessments assess all learning outcomes.

Reading and References

  • Chandra, Kanchan. 2004. Why Ethnic Parties Succeed: 'patronage and ethnic head counts in India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Dancygier, Rafaela. 2010. Immigration and Conflict in Europe. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Horowitz, Donald. 1985. Ethnic Groups in Conflict. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Posner, Daniel. 2005. Institutions and Ethnic Politics in Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Varshney, Ashutosh. 2002. Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life. New Haven: Yale University Press.