Ancestral and instrumental in the politics of ethnic and religious conflict

Arthur A. Stein, Ayelet Harel-Shalev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ethnicity, like race, religion, and nationality, is a feature of group identity that is contested. There are literatures devoted to each, and in each there are those who see the origins of identity and affiliation in ancestry and deeply rooted affect and those who see these as socially constructed and instrumentally used by elites. Yet all recognize that the ancestral is socially constructed and that social constructions make use of existing cultural features, and that the vertical cleavages of race, religion, ethnicity, and nationality dominate the horizontal ones of class. This generates implications for institutional changes, for the pursuit of extraterritorial interests, for the selection of explanatory narratives for conflict when multiple attributions are possible, for intra-communal conflict, and for policies for ethnic conflict regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1981-2000
Number of pages20
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number12
StatePublished - 26 Sep 2017


  • Ethnicity
  • constructivism
  • instrumentalism
  • nationalism
  • primordialism
  • race


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