Ethnicity as Uncertainty Reducing Behavior

Explaining Acquiescence to Ethnic Violence

  • Benjamin Claeson Bates College
Keywords: Bosnia, Balkans, civil war, constructivism, ethnicity, instrumentalism, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, uncertainty reduction, Yugoslavia


Scholars of ethnic violence have moved beyond the traditional primordialist constructivist debate into a much more thorough discussion exploring why mobilizations to violence along ethnic divisions are successful. This debate has sparked insight into many components that help to explain varied motivations for participation in ethnic violence. However, as of yet there has not been a systematic theory that can explain the prevalence of ethnic violence as opposed to violence based upon other categorizations. This paper argues that ethnic mobilization to violence is successful because ethnic identity offers a means of uncertainty reduction in times of chaos that allows people to create more effective risk assessments in their daily interactions. However, ethnic violence will only occur under conditions where more effective risk assessment tools are sufficiently weakened.

Author Biography

Benjamin Claeson, Bates College

Benjamin Claeson is twenty-one years old and attends Bates College. He will attain a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Political Science. He will write his bachelor’s thesis examining power-sharing institutions as solutions to ethnic civil wars. After graduation he is applying to masters programs in international affairs. His interests include peacebuilding, human rights, identity politics, and democratic transition.

How to Cite
Claeson, B. (2014). Ethnicity as Uncertainty Reducing Behavior: Explaining Acquiescence to Ethnic Violence. Politikon: The IAPSS Journal of Political Science, 24, 46-67.