Why does ethnic violence occur in some places but not others? This paper argues that the local ethnic configuration below the national level is an important determinant of how likely conflict is in any particular place. Existing studies of ethnicity and conflict focus on national-level fractionalization or dominance, but much of the politics surrounding ethnic groups’ grievances and disputes takes place at a more local level. We argue that the existence of multiple ethnic groups competing for resources and power at the level of sub-national administrative regions creates a significant constraint on the ability of states to mitigate ethnic groups’ grievances. This in turn increases the likelihood of conflict between ethnic groups and the state. In particular, we argue that diverse administrative regions dominated by one group should be most prone for conflict. Using new data on conflict and ethnic group composition at the region level, we test the theory and find that units with one demographically dominant ethnic group among multiple groups are most prone to conflict.
While theoretical models of conflict often treat actors as unitary, most selfdetermination groups are fragmented into a number of competing internal factions. This article presents a framework for understanding the ‘‘dual contests’’ that selfdetermination groups engage in—the first with their host state and the second between co-ethnic factions within groups. Using a new data set of the number of factions within a sample of self-determination groups from 1960 to 2008, the authors find that competition between co-ethnic factions is a key determinant of their conflict behavior. More competing factions are associated with higher instances of violence against the state as well as more factional fighting and attacks on co-ethnic civilians. More factions using violence increases the chances that other factions will do so, and the entry of a new faction prompts violence from existing factions in a within-group contest for political relevance. These findings have implications for both theory and policy.