Research Paper on Ethnic and Identity Politics

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I. Introduction

II. What Is Ethnic Identity?

III. How Does Ethnic Identity Form?

IV. What Is the Relationship Between Ethnic and National Identity?

V. Some Research Directions

A. Ethnic Voting

B. Ethnic Parties, Conflict, and Accommodation

VI. Conclusion

I. Introduction

The focus of this research paper is on the central concept of ethnic identity and its effects on politics. In particular, it focuses on the importance of ethnic identity politics from a comparative perspective. Although an enormous amount of literature on ethnic identity has been produced in anthropology and sociology, this paper concentrates on the still voluminous literature in political science.

This research paper covers the general political science literature that addresses the following questions: (a) What is meant by the concept of ethnic identity? (b) How does an ethnic identity form and change? (c) What is the relationship between ethnicity and national identity? (d)What are the political consequences of ethnic identity (especially in terms of voting and political parties)? Finally the paper turns to some future research questions that can be derived from this coverage of the literature.

II. What Is Ethnic Identity?

What is generally meant by such terms as ethnicity, ethnic group, and ethnic identity? The terms are derived from the Greek term ethnos, which has been generally translated to mean nation or a community of people who share a common language or culture. Although much of the early understanding of ethnic groups treated these communities as natural (often conflating ethnicity with race, e.g., the German race, the English race), the notable 19th and early 20th century German sociologist Max Weber argued that ethnic groups were artificial and socially constructed. Essentially they were based on a subjective belief in a shared community. This belief is what created the group, and the motivation for creating a group derived from the desire for political power. This was very much in contrast to an earlier belief in the 19th century that held that sociocultural and behavioral differences between peoples stemmed from inherited traits and tendencies derived from common descent, or race. Later Fredrik Barth (1969) went even further, arguing that ethnicity was forever changing and that the boundaries of membership in an ethnic group are often negotiated and renegotiated, depending on the political struggle between groups.

Many social scientists have since noted the malleability of ethnic group boundaries. Thus, Joan Vincent (1974) has noted that ethnic boundaries often ebb and flow and have a rather mercurial nature. Ronald Cohen (1978) also pointed to the instrumental nature of ethnic boundaries, arguing that ethnicity “can be narrowed or broadened in boundary terms in relation to the specific needs of political mobilization.” This may be why descent is sometimes a marker of ethnicity and sometimes not—ultimately it depends on the political situation.

However, as Liah Greenfeld (1992) and many others have noted, this does not mean that ethnic identities are merely “imagined” and completely malleable and porous. Rather there are some objective characteristics that constrain identity. For instance, a Japanese American cannot suddenly declare herself to be an Ethiopian and be accepted as such in Ethiopia. Generally, others will not regard her as Ethiopian (because she does not “look it” or because she cannot speak Amharic or any other national language of Ethiopia). In other words, objective attributes constrain what can be subjectively imagined.

Thus the modern literature in comparative politics has used ethnicity as a concept that embraces these attributes. For instance, the notable scholar of ethnic politics Donald Horowitz (1985) has referred to the concept of ethnicity as a broad term that “easily embraces groups differentiated by color, language, and religion; it covers ‘tribes,’ ‘races,’ ‘nationalities,’ and castes” (p. 53). Much of the more recent literature also uses the term ethnicity in very much the same way—as a term that includes many other markers of identity (Chandra, 2004; Posner, 2005).

A very useful synthesis of objective and subjective views of ethnic identity, but one that is also more precise than previous broad conceptions, is provided by Kanchan Chandra (2006). She suggests a very useful definition of ethnic identity that draws on both subjective and objective views. She argues that “ethnic identities are a subset of identity categories in which eligibility for membership is determined by attributes associated with, or believed to be associated with, descent” (p. 398, italics added). By ethnic identity, she means a social category in which “eligibility for membership is determined by descent-based attributes” (p. 398). These attributes include both objective features and subjective beliefs. Thus attributes include the following:

Those acquired genetically (e.g. skin color, gender, hair type, eye color, height, and physical features), or through cultural and historical inheritance (e.g. the names, languages, places of birth and origin of one’s parents and ancestors), or acquired in the course of one’s lifetime as markers of such an inheritance (e.g. last name, or tribal markings). Further, it includes attributes believed to be associated with descent, which mean attributes around which a credible myth of association with descent has been woven, whether or not such an association exists in fact. The definition thus includes both a subjective and an objective element. (Chandra, 2006, p. 399)

III. How Does Ethnic Identity Form?

Much of the literature in comparative politics has suggested that ethnic identity is one of the most powerful forces shaping political attitudes and mass political behavior (Brubaker, 1992). Ethnicity is a type of group-based social identity, along with other group-based identities (such as class and clan), but ethnicity has had a particularly powerful effect on political behavior in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Generally speaking, the early scholarship on ethnic identity formation was characterized by two broad debates (Eriksen, 2001), or what might be referred to as the primordial versus the situational perspectives.

The first approach (primordialism) generally holds that ethnic identity is innate and natural in some way. Anthony Smith (1986) identifies a variety of different kinds of primordialisms, including essentialist primordialism and kinship primordialism. Essentialist primordialism holds that ethnicity is a natural biological fact, and thus ethnicity precedes human society. This approach has had relatively little impact on scholarship, although it has been forwarded politically by racial supremacists from time to time. More common in the primordialist literature is kinship primordialism, which holds that ethnic groups are the extensions of blood kinship communities. A version of this is the perspective offered by Clifford Geertz, who acknowledges that ethnic identity is not entirely “in the blood” but that ethnic ties and group bonding are somewhat natural processes (because objective racial or physical features assist the creation of social bonds). In particular, from this point of view, ethnic ties represent a permanent social bond that is self-sustaining and not subject to human manipulation (Geertz, 1973). Indeed, Geertz argues that because people attach so much to certain socially objective markers such as race, religion, language, and culture, they perceive ethnicity as primordial and natural.

On the other hand, the situational perspective (also known as the constructionist or instrumentalist approach) states that ethnic identities are socially constructed. In other words, the definition of the group, and the identification of its boundaries, are often negotiated and renegotiated, and how these boundaries are redefined depends on specific situations and circumstances that each group encounters. The basic cognitive processes of self-categorization and self-schematization (Turner, 1985), combined with social interaction (Burke & Reitzes, 1981), produce intersubjective agreement that (almost) every person can be placed into categories described in terms of some easily perceived attributes. People attach themselves to these groups, and the strength of these attachments or commitments (Burke & Reitzes, 1981) affects people’s lives and activities.

The instrumentalist approach is more cynical than the simple notion that identities are social constructions. Instrumentalists see the creation of identity as the product of the manipulation of cultural and kinship symbols by political entrepreneurs for political gain (Cohen, 1974). This approach sees ethnicity as result of political strategy, usually to achieve other ends, such as political power, access to resources, and increase in wealth and status.

Within the situational perspective, several subtheories attempt to explain how ethnic identity is formed and reshaped. Some sociologists, for example, have argued that ethnic identity can be resurgent or emergent. Those who believe in a resurgent ethnic identity accept the idea that traditional or ancestral identities can reemerge as the result of particular historical circumstances. For instance, groups that has been stripped of their previous heritage (such as Native Americans) or assimilated (such as many groups in the former Soviet Union) have experienced a resurgence of pride in traditional identities. This has happened in the 20th century in North America and, in the former Soviet Union after the collapse of Communism, for ethnic minority groups such as the Tatar and Bashkir and new majority groups such as Kazakhs and Kirghiz.

On the other hand, an emergent ethnic identity involves the creation of a new sense of group identity that may emerge as the result of particular circumstances. For example, Japanese Americans in the United States, largely as the result of World War II, have formed an identity quite different from being either Japanese or entirely “American” (Nagel, 1994). Indeed, as policies and context lead to contested identities, individuals may go so far as to create new identities, which become shared.

Last, considerable recent interest has focused on how ethnic identities change, particularly after group circumstances change. This approach is based on the notion that contextual changes affect the relationships between peoples. As several scholars have noted, economic, social, and political changes shape the context affecting groups and individuals (Anderson, 1983; Hobsbawm, 1990; Posner, 2005). This is because the very attributes that shaped identity before are suddenly in flux. During times of disruption (e.g., in post-Soviet politics), dimensions such as language, tribe, or region may be used by political entrepreneurs to restructure groups based on new identities (Posner, 2005).

With the emergence of newly independent nations from the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia, the issue of ethnic and national identity has changed as well. Changes in the ranking of individual groups affect the development of identities. The character of the ranking systems (Horowitz, 1985) affects whether individual ethnics will try to change identities or must attempt to change the status of their group in order to improve their conditions. Horowitz (1985) contrasts the two systems as follows:

In unranked systems one need not choose between his mobility aspirations and his group membership, whereas in ranked systems elite status is possible for members of a subordinate group only if they are willing and able to renounce their origins by passing into the superordinate group. (p. 35)

Thus, for example, groups such as Kazakhs in Kazakhstan, which were ranked below Russians in Kazakhstan during the Soviet period, are now ranked above Russians in Kazakhstan. This makes Kazakh identity more attractive than a Russian identity for many who live in Kazakhstan.

IV. What Is the Relationship Between Ethnic and National Identity?

A second debate in the literature on ethnic identity, as identified by Thomas H. Eriksen (2001), is the debate within nationalist studies between constructivism and essentialism, or how national identities emerge as a product of ethnic identities. This involves the debate over whether national communities are created consciously or whether they grow organically out of preexisting cultural communities. In nationalism studies, this debate is highlighted by the differences between Smith (1986) and Ernest Gellner (1983). Gellner argues that nations are entirely a product of modernization. Gellner is not alone in this point of view. For instance, the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm also argues that ethnicity and nationalism are wholly modern inventions, appearing only after industrialization and modernization in world history. Thus, from this point of view, industrialization and urbanization created the basis for mass national identities. For instance, prior to industrialization, national identities did not exist. Generally, identities were local, not national. Thus, for instance, a Romanian peasant in the early 19th century was likely to identify with his or her local village or district, not with a community known as Romania, which did not exist politically (the region now known as Romania was then part of the Ottoman Empire). However, as economic modernization advanced, accompanied by the movement to urban areas, people became connected in ways that transcended local identities. People realized that there were now others who spoke the same language and who shared the same cultural practices. This created the basis for a mass identity, such as Romanian. Subsequently, the state creates a new history that proclaims that the nation has ancient roots that have existed for millennia (Gellner, 1983).

Benedict Anderson (1983) also argues that in many ways nations are “imagined” communities that are created, although unlike Gellner, he sees no necessary connection with particular ethnic groups. Gellner sees nations growing out of ethnic communities (such as the Romanian example above). Anderson, on the other hand, observes that nations can include many ethnic groups but that the national community is a community that binds people together nonetheless (for Anderson the Philippines and Indonesia are cases in point).

On the other hand Smith (1986, 1991) has argued that every nation has an ethnic core and that nations are not simply imagined. He has pointed to the importance of preexisting ethnies, which are required for the development of nationalism. An ethnie is defined as a population with a shared proper name, a common ancestry, shared historical memories, a shared culture, and an association with a particular territory. Nations grow out of these groups. Indeed, Smith argues that nationalism draws on the history of particular groups to fashion a sense of identity.

Greenfeld (1992) shares this perspective and argues that nations are not just “imagined communities.” However, she says that national identities are not completely fixed, either. Rather, whether an individual chooses to identify with a particular national community depends to a large extent on the individual’s personal experiences. In Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity, she outlines the process by which individuals link their personal experiences with the development of a collective identity or nation. Greenfeld contends that one must experience a social, political, psychological, religious, or cultural event that encourages the person to accept a community. As rites and initiations occur, the meanings of these situations build on each other until the individual identifies within the community and accepts or rejects its traditions. In either case, the person, through self-selection or marriage, connects with a group that creates a community and a nation. Further, several social institutions support the sustenance of a community: family, schools, peers, religion, the community norms, its media, and life events.

A related issue regarding the creation of national identity is the question of who belongs to the national community— that is, what are the criteria for membership in the national club. Indeed, several scholars have distinguished between communities that have different criteria for membership, particularly the difference between ethnic nations and civic ones (Smith, 1991). Rogers Brubaker (1992), for instance, found that the French and German conceptions of nation and nation-state are very different. France has historically emphasized loyalty to the state and acceptance of French culture and ideas as the key criteria for citizenship. Thus there is an emphasis on assimilation of peoples, regardless (technically) of race or other physical characteristics. On the other hand, the German conception of national community is based on the concept of the people (Volk), or the idea that an ethnocultural community is based on “blood.” These divergent approaches to national community partially explain the different ways in which countries approach issues of citizenship and immigration. In France, citizenship is based on acceptance of the French language and culture. Immigrants are expected to assimilate into the French community by adopting these attributes. In Germany, on the other hand, the emphasis on an ethnic community means that blood connections are far more important as a criterion for membership in a national community than is cultural assimilation. In fact, cultural assimilation is simply not enough to gain membership in the national community.

Greenfeld (1992) argues that these different kinds of national identities affect the kinds of nationalisms that emerge. She suggests that there are three basic types of nationalism: individualist-civic, collectivist-civic, and collectivist-ethnic. Individualist civic nationalism identifies a collection of individuals who come together in civic life and abide by its conventions. The national community is primarily held together by some loyalty to a set of principles, as opposed to some mystical notion of volk. Nationalism in the United States represents this type. In collectivist civic nationalism, loyalty to the state defines membership in the national community, and this loyalty is often accompanied by a demand to assimilate to the dominant culture. France represents this type of nationalism. Finally, there is collectivist ethnic nationalism, which is the most exclusionary and is based on the idea that the national community is defined by blood. Germany, particularly in the past, would fit this type of nationalism. Often this form of nationalism is directed from above and exclusionary of outsiders.

V. Some Research Directions

The issue of ethnic identity has been an important research issue in comparative political science. Two research agendas illustrate some of the scholarship in the area: (1) the effects of ethnic identity on voting and (2) the effects of ethnic parties on new democracies.

A. Ethnic Voting

Scholarship has a long-standing interest in elections and voting behavior in “divided” societies. Indeed, many scholars have worried that elections in ethnically divided societies will produce census elections, which are inimical to democracy. In other words, such elections tend to create impermeable blocs that detract from interethnic accommodation. Rather than creating harmony and stability, elections in ethnically divided societies become an invitation to fraud and open conflict as groups struggle for political dominance (Horowitz, 1985; Rabushka & Shepsle, 1972). The most common explanation for census-style elections is Horowitz’s (1985) expressive voting hypothesis, which contends that voters employ the act of voting to express (and hence register) their identities as part of an ethnic group. This practice in turn gives rise to ethnic parties, which, through the process of ethnic outbidding, lead to the hardening of ethnic positions, which reduces the possibility of ethnic accommodation and ultimately leads to the dissolution of incipient democracies.

A prominent theme among scholars studying voting in new democracies is the enduring relevance of ethnicity in the developing world, where “ethnic ties based on kinship and family, language and dialect, tribal customs and local communities, as well as shared religious faiths, have long been regarded as playing a critical role in party politics” (Norris & Mattes, 2003, p. 1). For some, such as Letitia Lawson (1999), ethnicity is an alternative basis for political mobilization and an almost natural process in Asia and Africa, a process she describes as follows:

Absence of formal associations clearly apart from the state and capable of engaging the population, the introduction of liberal democratic procedures, at the behest of external donors, [all this] has led political parties to appeal to the only available alternative: ethnic identity. (p. 12)

While there is a general consensus that ethnicity is an important cleavage in many countries, there has been considerable debate over why voters may vote along ethnic lines. Some have argued that voters vote for ethnic candidates because they believe that “their” candidates will deliver patronage resources to them. For instance, Chandra argues that ethnic voting is often the product of patronage democracies, in which the state monopolizes access to jobs and administrative resources (Chandra, 2004). Such states, in the search for legitimation and popular support, often engage in selective targeting, whereby certain groups are selected to receive the most benefits from state resources. Hence, voting aligns along ethnic lines largely out of the expectation for patronage benefits. In this way, ethnic identity offers an informational shorthand, telling voters that voting for a coethnic candidate or party will more likely result in benefits for the voter than will voting for a candidate or party from another ethnic group. Thus, voters believe that benefits are more likely to result from demonstrating solidarity with the community. In other words, they share a sense “that only a member of their own ethnic group may end up defending the interests of the ethnic group as a whole, and that voting for a member of another ethnic group will certainly not do so” (van de Walle, 2003, p. 313).

A second approach emphasizes the coincidence of ethnicity with policy preferences and voter evaluations of the performance of the government. Indeed, it may be the case that what appears to be an ethnic bond among voters is actually the result of voters’ sharing common policy preferences that drive them to vote in similar ways. For instance, Robert Mattes (1995) notes that in divided societies, individuals from the same ethnic group have common preferences because they often share common political and economic interests. Because preferences form as the result of social interactions and individuals within ethnic communities tend to interact only with other members of their own group, shared patterns of interests result. Thus, it may appear that ethnicity is the cause of voting behavior, but in reality ethnicity is merely a correlate of other interests. Karen Ferree (2004) refers to this as the policy framework approach, whereby voting is driven not by identity but by a common set of interests. Indeed, voter choice often appears to be primarily reflective of ethnic identity when it is actually reflective of a common set of frustrations with government performance. In this situation, ethnicity plays no direct role in shaping voting behavior. That ethnicity overlaps with behavior is largely happenstance.

Last, the ethnic expressive voting approach suggests that voters vote for coethnic candidates because the act of voting is a psychological affirmation of group identity. The most prominent advocate of this approach is Horowitz (1985). Horowitz argues that to vote for an ethnic party is to affirm group identity, and voters thus derive psychological benefits from supporting ethnic parties. Since voting is not a product of rational calculation, partisan allegiances are rather fixed and rigid, and elections become a reflection of demographics. Such voting implies that voting is not the outcome of a careful evaluation of policy positions or the performance of leaders; instead, it is identity that matters. As Stanley Fish (2008) notes, the heart of identity politics is that voters vote for or against someone because of the candidate’s personal characteristics. “In essence, identity politics is an affirmation of tribe against the claims of ideology” (p. A13).

B. Ethnic Parties, Conflict, and Accommodation

Related to ethnic voting is the topic of ethnic parties, which is often seen as the organization product of ethnic identity voting. Indeed, there has been a long-standing interest in the role played by ethnic parties in promoting (or dampening) conflict between ethnic groups. Many scholars have argued that the appearance of ethnic parties is a “bad” thing for new democracies or systems in transition. From this perspective, not only does the emergence of ethnic parties deepen divisions between groups, but ethnic parties serve to exacerbate conflict (Hislope, 1997).

Alvin Rabushka and Kenneth Shepsle (1972) offered one of the earliest explanations of the way in which ethnic parties promote conflict in plural societies. In their model, a key role is played by ethnic elites and the organizations they lead. Indeed, these organizations engage in the politics of ethnic outbidding that ultimately undermines multiethnic cooperation and inevitably leads to nondemocratic, ethnically exclusive states. Other authors have similarly argued that because ethnic parties make their political appeal specifically on ethnicity, their emergence often has a centrifugal effect on politics. This effect is especially harmful to new democracies, where democratic institutions are quite fragile. Indeed, under such conditions, ethnic competition can easily turn into ethnic conflict. This is because the competition for votes for the ethnic party involves mobilizing the ethnic group, and the best way to do that is to use inflammatory and confrontational rhetoric, distinguishing between “us” and “them” (Koelble, 1995). Richard Gunther and Larry Diamond (2003) have described this process as follows:

The electoral logic of the ethnic party is to harden and mobilize its ethnic base with exclusive, often polarizing appeals to ethnic group opportunity and threat. . . . The ethnic party’s particularistic, exclusivist, and often polarizing political appeals make its overall contribution to society divisive and even disintegrative. (pp. 21-23)

In addition, ethnic parties indirectly contribute to worsening ethnic tensions by promoting party politics along cultural lines, which often leads to the marginalization and exclusion of a cultural minority. As a consequence, such minorities may feel encouraged to resort to undemocratic or even violent means in order to counter this treatment. Further, merely by promoting identity-based politics, ethnic parties can significantly raise the stakes of the political game, reinforcing group identities and thus raising the likelihood of conflict. For these reasons as well, ethnic parties increase the likelihood of intercommunal conflict and threaten the survivability of new democracies.

Thus, from the foregoing perspective, the mere appearance of an ethnic party should signal an increase in the rise of interethnic conflict. Horowitz (1985) has described the phenomenon in the following terms:

By appealing to electorates in ethnic terms, by making ethnic demands on government, and by bolstering the influence of ethnically chauvinistic elements within each group, parties that begin by merely mirroring ethnic divisions help to deepen and extend them. Hence the oft heard remark in such states that politicians have created ethnic conflict. (p. 291)

On the other hand, several scholars contend that ethnic parties can play a constructive role in promoting intergroup accommodation. Indeed, advocates of the consociational school have long argued that promoting the emergence of ethnic parties and then representing them broadly will facilitate the integration of as many subcultures as possible into the political game, thus creating the conditions for interethnic cooperation (Daalder, 1974; Lijphart, 1968). Furthermore, securing representation for minority groups facilitates the integration of disaffected groups into the political system, which ultimately leads them to moderate their demands. Frank Cohen (1997) argues that the broader the representation, the more likely the ethnic group feels bound to the existing system. As Cohen puts it, “By making institutions more accessible and making ethnic cleavages more explicit, ethnic groups will engage in more frequent but less intense conflict. They will use moderate means of resistance to effect change in the status quo” (p. 613).

Others, such as Sherrill Stroschein (2001), contend that ethnic parties do not cause ethnic conflict but emerge as the result of it. That is, they reflect differences that already exist. Nonetheless, ethnic parties can channel demands into more legitimate forms of participation and thus allow conflicts to be resolved politically rather than through violence (p. 61). John T. Ishiyama (2000) demonstrated that in the post-Communist world, ethnic parties have assisted in bringing into the political process those who otherwise would have been alienated by the emerging democratic systems in the region.

Current research, such as that by Johanna Birnir (2007), Chandra (2004), James Fearon and David Laitin (1996), and Daniel Posner (2004), offers a more contingent view of the link between ethnic cleavages and conflict and stresses the importance of ethnicity and ethnic cleavages as cost-effective strategic resources for group formation, interest definition, and collective action. Perhaps one of the strongest and most articulate proponents of the notion that ethnic parties can have a positive effect on the stabilization of new democracies is Chandra (2005). She directly criticizes the notion of ethnic outbidding, which is so central to the argument that the mere appearance of ethnic parties sets off a chain reaction leading to a spiral of extremism that destroys democratic politics altogether. Rather, she argues that ethnic parties can help sustain democracy if these parties are institutionally encouraged to compete on multiple dimensions rather than on just the unidimensional axis of ethnicity. Indeed, political institutions that restrict “ethnic politics to a single dimension destabilize democracy, whereas institutions that foster multiple dimensions of ethnic identity can sustain it” (Chandra, 2005, p. 236).

In a similar vein, Birnir (2007), in examining patterns of ethnic politics in a broadly comparative way, contends that the ethnification of politics does not necessarily translate to violence. Indeed, like Chandra, Birnir argues that ethnic identity serves as a stable but flexible information shorthand for political choices and assists in stabilizing party formations and hence the development of democracy. If violence results, it is largely the result of political institutional factors, particularly restrictions on access to the executive. This exclusion is what leads to violence, not the political mobilization of ethnicity.

Birnir argues that, ceteris paribus, ethnic parties (which she refers to as ethnic attractors) are predisposed to seek peaceful means to gain access to political power. This is because, as with all parties, ethnic attractors seek to act on behalf of a constituency and seek leverage for that constituency. In turn, voters who use ethnic identity as a shortcut to sort through candidate preferences prefer parties that act on behalf of the ethnic constituency (this party could be a nonethnic party as well). This factor provides a strong incentive for the ethnic attractor to gain access to the political executive, which is best achieved through peaceful means.

Why is it the case, then, that members of some ethnic groups appear to peacefully support their group in electoral politics whereas others do not support their groups, exit electoral politics, and even engage in protest and violence? Birnir’s answer is that if political intransigence and violence result, it is not because of the ethnification of politics but rather the denial of political access to an ethnic group. It is the shutting out from the core of power that produces the kinds of violence and instability that are commonly associated with ethnic politics in the existing literature.

VI. Conclusion

This research paper has sought to summarize the basic literature on ethnic identity politics, a subfield of comparative politics. Although its coverage is not entirely exhaustive, it provides the reader with a basic understanding of the underlying debates regarding the central questions addressed in the literature: (a) What is ethnic identity? (b) What leads to the formation of an ethnic identity? (c)What is the relationship between ethnic identity and political movements such as nationalism? (d) How are issues of ethnic identity explored in the literature on comparative ethnic voting and ethnic parties? Furthermore, with the changes wrought by the end of the cold war and the emergence of new states and new identities from the former Soviet Union, as well as in other parts of the world, the answers to questions about how identities change are now accessible to scholars. Indeed, unlike in the past, when analyses of national and ethnic identity formation were largely derived from secondhand observations of history, the process of identity formation is unfolding in front of us. This provides new opportunities and new research directions that represent exciting new paths for future inquiry.

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