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Unit information: Ethnic Politics: Approaches and Issues in 2018/19

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Unit name Ethnic Politics: Approaches and Issues
Unit code POLIM0036
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Paca
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:

1. define and critically assess concepts used in the discussion of ethnic politics

2. apply the analytical concepts used in the unit across a range of cases

3. explain and evaluate the use of data and methods appropriate to the field

4. critically evaluate measures taken to manage ethnic conflict

Teaching details

The unit will be taught in one two hour seminar each week with a mixed form of delivery (student participation, seminar discussion, tutor lead teaching).

Assessment Details


Poster on the ethnic politics of a chosen country

15-minute group presentation contrasting two pieces of research on the week’s topic

Summative -

1000 word policy brief on the ethnic politics of a chosen country (25%)

3000 word essay (75%)

The formative poster assignment and summative policy brief will in particular allow for assessment of and feedback on intended learning outcome 2.

The formative group presentation and summative essay will in particular allow for assessment of and feedback on intended learning outcomes 1-4. The summative essay questions will in particular be specifically designed to assess students’ ability to critically engage with and evaluate approaches and issues covered by the unit.

Reading and References

  • Chandra, Kanchan. 2004. Why Ethnic Parties Succeed, 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.