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Ethnicity, National Identity and the State: Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa


The process by which people transfer their allegiance from ethnic to national identities is highly topical yet somewhat opaque. This article argues that one of the key determinants of national identification is membership in a ‘core’ ethnic group, or Staatsvolk, and whether or not that group is in power. It uses the example of Uganda as well as Afrobarometer data to show that, when the core ethnic group is in power (as measured by the ethnic identity of the president), members of this group identify more with the nation, but when this group is out of power members identify more with their ethnic group. This finding has important implications for the study of nationalism, ethnicity and African politics.

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Department of International Development, London School of Economics (email: I would like to thank seminar participants at the LSE as well as three anonymous referees for comments and suggestions. All faults are my own. Data replication sets are available in Harvard Dataverse at: and online appendices at:

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British Journal of Political Science
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Supplementary materials

Green Dataset

Supplementary materials

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Appendices 1 and 2

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