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When considering strategies to address violent conflict, an enduring debate concerns the wisdom of recognizing versus avoiding reference to ethnic identities. This book asks: Under what conditions do governments manage internal violent conflicts by formally recognizing different ethnic identities? And, moreover, what are the implications for peace?  Introducing the concept of “ethnic recognition,” and building on a theory that focuses on ethnic power configurations, the book examines the merits, risks, and trade-offs of publicly recognizing ethnic groups in state institutions as compared to not doing so, on sought-after outcomes such as political inclusiveness, the decline of political violence, economic vitality, and the improvement of democracy. It draws on both global cross-national quantitative analysis of post-conflict constitutions, settlements, and institutions since 1990, as well as in-depth qualitative case studies of Burundi, Rwanda, and Ethiopia. Findings show that recognition is adopted about forty percent of the time and is much more likely when the leader is from the largest ethnic group, as opposed to an ethnic minority. Moreover, all else equal, recognition promotes peace better than non-recognition under plurality leadership. Under minority leadership, peace outcomes are neither better nor worse. These findings should be of great interest to social scientists studying peace, democracy, and development, and of practical relevance to policymakers attempting to make these concepts a reality around the world.


Elisabeth King is Associate Professor of International Education and Politics at New York University and Founding Director of NYU’s interdisciplinary minor in Peace and Conflict Studies. Her research interests include war, peace, development, and education in ethnically diverse and conflict-affected contexts. King uses research methods ranging from in-depth qualitative interviews and focus groups, to randomized field experiments and surveys, and works with policy-makers to link her scholarship with on-the-ground practice and programming. She is author of From Classrooms to Conflict in Rwanda (2014, Cambridge University Press), named an Outstanding Academic Title by the American Libraries Association, and Diversity, Violence, and Recognition (with Cyrus Samii), from Oxford University Press in 2020. Other recent work appears in Journal of Peace ResearchWorld Development and African Studies Review. King’s work has been funded by grants from such organizations as the United States Institute of Peace, the Spencer Foundation, and the Folke Bernadotte Academy. She has conducted fieldwork in Kenya, Liberia, the Philippines and Rwanda, among others, and consulted for organizations including UNICEF, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and the MasterCard Foundation. King received her PhD in political science from the University of Toronto and was a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University.

Cyrus Samii is Associate Professor in the Wilf Family Department of Politics of New York University and Executive Director of the Evidence in Governance and Politics (EGAP) network. He writes and teaches on quantitative social science methodology, with an emphasis on causal inference. He is a prominent expert on the design of quantitative field research and field experiments. He also conducts applied research on governance in contexts where formal institutions are weak, the political economy of development, and social, economic, and psychological causes of violent conflict. He has designed and carried out field studies in sites across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This research has been conducted in collaboration with partners from various international agencies, including the World Bank, United Nations, US Agency for International Development, UK Department for International Development, and Danish International Aid Agency, as well as non-governmental and civil society organizations in the respective countries. His work has appeared in leading peer-reviewed journals such as the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Annals of Applied Statistics, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Labor Economics, Journal of Peace Research, Journal of Politics, Political Analysis, and Survey Methodology. He received his PhD in political science from Columbia University, a master’s in international affairs from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, and BA from Tufts University.

Séverine Autesserre  is an award-winning author, peacebuilder, and researcher, as well as a Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is the author of The Trouble with the CongoPeaceland, and The Frontlines of Peace, in addition to articles for publications such as Foreign AffairsInternational Organization, and The New York Times. Autesserre has been involved intimately in the world of international aid for more than twenty years. She has conducted research in twelve different conflict zones, from Colombia to Somalia to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Autesserre has worked for Doctors Without Borders in places like Afghanistan and Congo, and at the United Nations headquarters in the United States. Her research has helped shape the intervention strategies of several United Nations departments, foreign affairs ministries, and non-governmental organizations, as well as numerous philanthropists and activists. She has also been a featured speaker at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates and the U.S. House of Representatives. Please click here for more details, or follow her on Twitter at @SeverineAR.