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Processes of ethnic group mobilization



  • Forthcoming. “From Claims to Violence: Signaling, Outbidding, and Escalation in Ethnic Conflict.” Journal of Conflict Resolution (with Kristian Skrede Gleditsch and Lars-Erik Cederman). (Link to article)

  • 2016. "Indigenous Movements and Ethnic Inclusion in Latin America." International Studies Quarterly 60(4): 790-801. (Link to article)

  • 2015. "The Disarticulated Movement: Barriers to Maya Mobilization in Post-Conflict Guatemala." Latin American Politics and Society 57(1):29-50. (Link to article)


​​This research topic focuses on the meso-level of ethnic politics: namely, the organizational actors that represent ethnic groups and translate their interests and/or grievances into collective action. In particular, I am interested in how ethno-political organizations (both electoral and non-electoral) emerge, how they construct a collective voice and a common political agenda, and how, through violent or peaceful collective action, they transform existing group relations, for example by influencing the political representation of ethnic groups.



My research on this topic draws on extensive field research in both Latin America (Guatemala and Ecuador) and Sub-Saharan Africa (Côte d’Ivoire and Gabon), as well as original data on ethno-political organizations. During my Ph.D. studies, I conducted over 150 in-depth interviews with state officials (including several state ministers), political party leaders, parliamentarians, media representatives, and civil society leaders to uncover the causal mechanisms through which ethnically based political organizations influence group relations in multiethnic states and impact crucial political outcomes, such as conflict or peace, and political exclusion or empowerment. As such, this research has informed my current book manuscript in a crucial way, providing the real-world empirical foundation that anchors the macro-level statistical analyses in the empirical reality on the ground.


Based on the first cross-sectional dataset on ethnic civil society organizations in Latin America, covering the time period from 1946 to 2009, my article on indigenous movements in Latin America - published in International Studies Quarterly - examines how such movements have contributed to the political inclusion of historically marginalized indigenous groups. My statistical analysis finds that indigenous groups with well-organized movements are more likely to achieve inclusion in executive positions of state power. The level of democratic freedom in a country greatly conditions this effect, while movement-internal factionalism undermines the political effectiveness of indigenous mobilization. I illuminate the causal mechanisms underlying these results in a case study of the rise and decline of indigenous mobilization in Ecuador.


The mechanisms through which ethnic movements achieve (or fail) to construct strong collective voices capable of challenging state governments are analyzed in more detail in my article on the "disarticulated" Maya movement in Guatemala, published in Latin American Politics and Society. In this case study, I show how organizational sectorization, the lack of elite consensus on key substantive issues, and unclear alliance strategies compromise the effectiveness of horizontal voice among Maya organizations in Guatemala, preventing the emergence of a strong vertical voice.

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