Identifiability, state repression, and the onset of ethnic conflict
When do persecuted ethnic minority groups choose to assimilate into the dominant majority group, rather than differentiate from it, and how do states respond? We argue that any answer to these questions must consider the joint effects of identity on state repression and the possibility of ethnic conflict. We posit two mechanisms through which identity acts: (1) mobilization and (2) operational capacity, defined as the ability of the group to contest state repression successfully. We show that minority groups may choose assimilation, even when differentiation would aid them in mobilization against the state, for a tactical reason: the benefits from improved mobilization may be outweighed by costly reductions in operational capacity. Efforts to assimilate emerge when the state cannot be indiscriminate in countering dissent, or when members of the minority group can more easily pass as members of the majority. Repressive states, in anticipation, will hinder assimilation by accentuating fundamental differences between groups.
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