Ethnicity plays an ambiguous role in the great transformation. On the one hand, ethnicity creates: by providing incentives that organize the flow of resources across generations, it provides the capital for urban migration and the acquisition of skills for industrial employment. On the other hand, ethnicity destroys: ethnic conflict leads to costly acts of violence. Using data drawn largely from Africa, this paper explores the two faces of ethnicity. In so doing, it finds that the presumed link between ethnicity and violence is more complex and less threatening than most assume. Those who claim a straightforward link are making an elementary error in the reading of tabular data.
Working Paper 99–11, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, October 1999.