JICA Ogata Research Institute

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Research Fellow Presents His Findings on Patterns of Ethnicity-based Perception in Africa at Academic Convention

July 8, 2011

JICA-RI research fellow Satoru Mikami gave a presentation at the 14th Annual Convention of the Japan Association for Comparative Politics, held at Hokkaido University from June 18 to 19. Under the title of “Origins of Convinced Ethnic Voting: Evidence from 4-Country Survey in Africa,” Mikami shared the outcome of his research – part of the JICA-RI’s project: “Prevention of Violent Conflicts in Africa” -- to examine where ethnicity-based hostility arises among Africa’s general public from a quantitative approach. Some of the audience expressed skeptical views about the significance of analyzing conflict and cooperation at the micro level from a macro political viewpoint. Mikami, in response, stressed that in order for the system of “centripetalism,” which is widely adopted by today’s African nations, to function, harmony between ethnic groups initiated by the general public is indispensable.


The major keys of Mikami’s research was that based on a socio-psychological theory, he came up with four hypotheses regarding the mechanism of how ethnicity-originated hostility arises—namely, the hypotheses of contact, retaliation, sanction, and competition—and reviewed these by using data from an opinion survey conducted in Africa. As an index of animosity level against other ethnic groups, Mikami utilized people’s attitudes toward “ethnic voting.” This is the act of deciding a choice of candidate in a public election not by their achievements or campaign promises, but by their ethnicity (mainly whether they come from your ethnic groups). The analysis of the results show, first of all, that there is a stark difference in patterns of perception between minority groups -- which make up less than 10 percent of a country’s population -- and other ethnic groups. Notably, the contact and competition hypotheses did not apply to these minority groups. Secondly, there tends to be a higher hostility level when an ethnic group considers themselves superior, which is the opposite of the retaliation hypothesis. Thirdly, the sanction hypothesis, which assumes that the intensity of national identity can interfere with people’s openness to diversity, turned out to be false, but the high degree of ethnic consciousness tends to intensify animosity against other groups.


For a policy implication to appease ethnic conflicts, Mikami pointed out that the effort to encourage ethnic exchanges and to make interethnic relations transparent can be effective primarily among non-minority groups and that if corrections of interethnic gaps are undertaken in an overly conspicuous manner, they could risk triggering conflicts instead.


Related Research Area: Peace and Development

Related Research Project: Prevention of Violent Conflicts in Africa

DayJune 18, 2011(Sat) - June 19, 2011(Sun)
PlaceSapporo Campus of Hokkaido University
OrganizerJapan Association for Comparative Politics

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