Perils or promise of ethnic integration? Evidence from a hard case in Burundi

Cyrus Samii

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    A central question in the study of political development is how conflict between ethnic groups might be transcended. Findings from social psychology suggest that ethnically integrating institutions such as militaries or representative bodies may remove prejudices and exclusionary behavior that perpetuate interethnic animosity. Political scientists have tended to be skeptical, arguing that such processes may actually intensify or freeze conflicting ethnic identities. I use evidence from a hard case - military reform in the aftermath of a brutal, ethnically charged civil war in Burundi - to study this issue. At the macro level, the Burundian military undertook extensive quota-based integration that nonetheless resulted in a cohesive institution. A micro-level natural experiment, which produces quasirandom exposure to ethnic integration through the military retirement age, shows that exposure to ethnic integration decreases prejudicial behavior and is benign with respect to ethnic salience. Together, these results suggest promise in ethnic integration.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)558-573
    Number of pages16
    JournalAmerican Political Science Review
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Aug 2013

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Political Science and International Relations


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