Ethnic Conflict: An Organizational Perspective

19 April 2013

To talk about the behavior of others is to generalize especially if that behavior is perceived to be negative. As researchers who have studied ethnic discrimination and ethnic conflict for close to two decades, we have noticed, anecdotally at least, that this penchant for generalization is rampant in discussions of ethnic politics. Journalists and academics tend to talk about one or another ethnic group’s involvement in violence without specifying a political organizational agent. This kind of generalization is a serious obstacle to understanding conflicts and identifying solutions because it prevents policymakers and academics from getting at the messy reality of ethnic politics—especially when they become contentious or violent. This article explores how organizations often change their policies and shift back and forth between violent and nonviolent strategies, occasionally adopting both at the same time. In the process, this article provides a counter-balance to generally accepted wisdom concerning the relationship between ethnicity and conflict.