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Identities in between: Political Conflict and Ethnonational Identities in Multicultural States

Posted on 2016-12-30 - 12:00

This article examines how political conflict shapes ethnonational identities in contexts where a national group coexists with territorially concentrated ethnic minorities and qualifies the view that conflict polarizes identities. An often overlooked fact is that large numbers of citizens in these contexts identify simultaneously with both groups. Based on the research about cross-pressures, we claim that dual identifiers react differently to conflict than exclusive identifiers. We predict that political disputes harden and polarize identities, but only among citizens at the extremes. Heightened conflict should not alter the identity of dual identifiers, but lead them to withdraw from politics. The setting of our study is Catalonia, a territory with numerous dual identifiers and an intense nonviolent political conflict. Results from two survey experiments, qualitative interviews, and public opinion surveys confirm that heightened political conflict only produces polarization at the extremes, but dual identifiers do not exhibit this reaction. Our findings have implications for policy interventions, as they suggest that strengthening dual identities may assuage the polarizing effects of conflict.

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