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Perils or Promise of Ethnic Integration? Evidence from a Hard Case in Burundi

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 July 2013

New York University
Cyrus Samii is Assistant Professor, Department of Politics, New York University, 19 West 4th Street, New York, NY 10012 (


A central question in the study of political development is how conflict between ethnic groups might be transcended. Findings from social psychology suggest that ethnically integrating institutions such as militaries or representative bodies may remove prejudices and exclusionary behavior that perpetuate interethnic animosity. Political scientists have tended to be skeptical, arguing that such processes may actually intensify or “freeze” conflicting ethnic identities. I use evidence from a hard case—military reform in the aftermath of a brutal, ethnically charged civil war in Burundi—to study this issue. At the macro level, the Burundian military undertook extensive quota-based integration that nonetheless resulted in a cohesive institution. A micro-level natural experiment, which produces quasirandom exposure to ethnic integration through the military retirement age, shows that exposure to ethnic integration decreases prejudicial behavior and is benign with respect to ethnic salience. Together, these results suggest promise in ethnic integration.

Research Article
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2013 

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