Ethnic Conflict and the Limits of Nonviolent Resistance

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2 Scopus citations


Recent research shows that campaigns of nonviolent resistance are much more successful in producing radical political change than armed rebellion. I argue that the study of nonviolent resistance has paid insufficient attention to a key condition for success—a shared ethnic identity between challengers and government. When challengers and incumbent belong to different ethnic groups, the prospects of campaign success are drastically curtailed, as this situation of “ethnic conflict” inhibits the mechanisms through which nonviolent resistance enables success: emergence of a critical mass of challengers, defection of segments of the security apparatus and the regime inner circle, and development of feelings of sympathy for the opposition cause among key government decision makers. Statistical analysis of all nonviolent campaigns from 1945 to 2006 supports my argument. Nonviolent ethnic campaigns are significantly and substantially less likely to succeed and draw both fewer participants and government defectors than their nonethnic counterparts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)362-391
Number of pages30
JournalSecurity Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 14 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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