A Virtual Trip to Myanmar for my Research Methods Class

For IS240 next week, (Intro to Research Methods in International Studies) we will be discussing qualitative research methods. We’ll address components of qualitative research and review issues related to reliability and validity and use these as the basis for an in-class activity.

The activity will require students to have viewed the following short video clips, all of which introduce the viewer to contemporary Myanmar. Some of you may know already that Myanmar (Burma) has been transitioning from rule by military dictatorship to democracy. Here are three aspects of Myanmar society and politics. Please watch as we won’t have time in class to watch all three clips. The clips themselves are not long (just over 3,5,and 8 minutes long, respectively).

The first clip shows the impact of heroin on the Kachin people of northern Myanmar:

The next clip is a short interview with a Buddhist monk on social relations in contemporary Myanmar:

The final video clip is of the potential impact (good and bad) of increased international tourism to Myanmar’s most sacred sites, one of which is Bagan.

What causes civil conflict?

In a series of recent articles, civil conflict researchers Esteban, Mayoral, and Ray (see this paper for an example) have tried to answer that question. Is it economic inequality, or cultural differences? Or maybe there is a political cause at its root. I encourage you to read the paper and to have a look at the video below. Here are a couple of images from the linked paper, which you’ll see remind you of concepts that we’ve covered in IS210 this semester. The first image is only part of the “Model of Civil Conflict.” Take a look at the paper if you want to see the “punchline.”

Screen shot 2014-02-07 at 1.54.26 AM

Here is the relationship between fractionalization and polarization. What does each of these measures of diversity measure?

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And here’s a nice youtube video wherein the authors explain their theory.

Does Segregation lead to interethnic violence or interethnic peace?

That’s an important question, because it not only gives us an indication of the potential to stem inter-ethnic violence in places like Iraq, Myanmar, and South Sudan, but it also provides clues as to where the next “hot spots” of inter-ethnic violence may be. For decades now, scholars have debated the answer to the question. There is empirical evidence to support bot the “yes” and “no” sides. For example, in a recent article in the American Journal of Political Science [which is pay-walled, so access it on campus or through your library’s proxy] Bhavnani et al. list some of this contradictory evidence:

How to create peace between Protestants and Catholics in Belfast? Erect 18-ft high "peace lines"
How to create peace between Protestants and Catholics in Belfast? Erect 18-ft high “peace lines”

Evidence supporting the claim that ethnic rivals should be kept apart:

  • Los Angeles riots of 1992, ethnic diversity was closely associated with rioting (DiPasquale and Glaeser 1998),
  • That same year, Indian cities in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar, each of whichhad a history of communal riots, experienced violence principally in locales where the Muslim minority was integrated. In Mumbai, where over a thousand Mus-
    lims were killed in predominantly Hindu localities, the Muslim-dominated neighborhoods of Mahim, Bandra,
    Mohammad Ali Road, and Bhindi Bazaar remained free of violence (Kawaja 2002).
  • Violence between Hindus and Muslims in Ahmedabad in 2002 was found to be significantly higher in ethnically mixed as opposed to segregated neighborhoods (Field et al. 2008).
  • In Baghdad during the mid-2000s, the majority displaced by sectarian fighting resided in neighborhoods where members of the Shi’a and Sunni communities lived in close proximity, such as those on the western side of the city (Bollens2008).

Evidence in support of the view that inter-mixing is good for peace:

  • Race riots in the British cities of Bradford, Oldham, and Burnley during the summer of 2001 were attributed to high levels of segregation (Peach 2007).
  • In Nairobi, residential segregation along racial (K’Akumu and Olima 2007) and class lines (Kingoriah 1980) recurrently produced violence.
  • In cities across Kenya’s Rift Valley, survey evidence points to a correlation between ethnically segregated residential patterns, low levels of trust, and the primacy of ethnic over national identities and violence (Kasara 2012).
  • In Cape Town, following the forced integration of blacks and coloreds by means of allocated public housing in low-income neighborhoods, a “tolerant multiculturalism” emerged (Muyeba and Seekings 2011).
  • Across neighborhoods in Oakland, diversity was negatively associated with violent injury (Berezin 2010).

Scholars have advanced many theories about the link between segregation and inter-ethnic violence (which I won’t discuss right now), but none of them appears to account for all of this empirical evidence. Of course, one might be inclined to argue that segregation is not the real cause of inter-ethnic violence, or that it is but one of many causes and that the role played by segregration in the complex causal structure of inter-ethnic violence has yet to be adequately specified.

Writing to your MP in Support of a Bill in the House of Commons

In POLI 1100, we have been discussing the concept and structure of legislatures. Near the end of Chapter 8 we looked at the path a bill has to traverse in Parliament before it becomes law (see Figure 8.2 of the Dyck textbook, p. 235). We viewed a video clip of MP Ruby Dhalla introducing a bill to amend the residency provisions of the OAS act. (If you don’t know what OAS stands for, watch the short video.)

We have learned in the past couple of weeks that most of the contact that you, as a Canadian citizen, have with the government is via the political executive, whether at the provincial or federal level. Apart from voting for your MP (MLA), there is very little contact between you and the legislative branch of our government. This week’s blog assignment can help change that. As I’ve noted on Blackboard, for this week’s blog assignment you can choose to write on anything to do with “legislatures”. You may, however, choose to write a letter to your MP (or any MP) in support (or opposition to) any bill that is currently in middle of the legislative process in Parliament. Here are the steps:

1. Go to http://www.parl.gc.ca (and select your language of choice):

2. Click on “Bills before Parliament” on the left (see the screenshot below). (“Projets de loi a l’etude au Parliament”, en francais)

3. On the next page, you will see, amongst other things, a list of the “All Bills for the Current Session (41st Parliament, 1st Session). The Bills can be sorted by number (as seen below), or by “Latest Activity Date”.

4. Find a Bill that interests you, and write a letter to the MP who is sponsoring the bill. Here’s an example of a letter I wrote below:

Mr. Jean Rousseau, M.P. House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Cher Monsieur Rousseau:

I am writing to you in support of Bill C-312, The Democratic Representation Act, which is currently at the Second Reading state of the legislative process in the House of Commons. As I understand it, the bill is meant to assuage the concerns of the Quebecois regarding the province of Quebec’s decreasing population, as a share of Canadian population as a whole. Bill C-312, should it be adopted into law, would maintain proportional representation of Quebec’s delegation in the House of Commons at 2006 levels, regardless of the relative proportion of Quebec’s population in the future.

While some might see this as anti-democratic in that this law would mandate a divergence from the idea that every citizen’s vote should be counted equally, I believe that the the violation of this core principle is justified in this case. (Indeed, in many areas of politics and public policy, debates centre around clashes of competing (and contradictory), fundamentally legitimate–morally and politically–principles.) In this case, the competing principle is the protection of a strong Quebec, and Quebecois society, which I believe is of inestimable value to Canadian society as a whole.

In the view of this Canadian citizen, who since immigrating to this wonderful country as an infant, has lived in the western province of British Columbia (when not living outside the country), Canada’s French heritage is an indispensable part of our country’s unique heritage and is part of the basis for the creation of what is today (though we know it hasn’t always been) a tolerant multicultural society, which is the envy of many around the world.

Josip (Joseph) Dasovic
Dept of History, Latin, and Political Science
Langara College
Vancouver, BC

Do you agree with my position? Should we violate the principle of “one-person, one-vote” in the way intended by Bill C-312?


My Tribe is my Pain

Here is a very interesting and personal account of a Ugandan’s views about identity–tribal, ethnic, national. I encourage you to read it, but here are some snippets:

If you live in Uganda you must come across these sentiments. My last name begins with Kag-Kagumire. My blog is not under that name for many reasons but this is one of them. When I say my last name to people sometimes they will say: Kaguta, so you’re from the west, Museveni’s relative etc. Even if it’s a slight joke it evokes a feeling that I can’t describe. To associate me with someone that is increasingly becoming negative makes me mad and in my tribe most times it’s okay to be mad and show it. I take time to explain to friends, sometimes gently other times with some emotion that I am from Bushenyi and I have never been to Rwakitura and that my father doesn’t own a single head of cattle. I am a private person but for the sake of clarity I am forced to talk about all these things and now i am writing about them.

Here’s another piece that implies the shifting nature of identities:

But this kind of view is not limited to the ‘uneducated’ Ugandans. A friend once told me that his Ugandan female friend hates ‘westerners’ so much that at her work place when job applications are brought in, she sorts out the west first.  This personal level of disdain for a group of people  is unfathomable. Others point out how rich you’re and how many opportunities you get. Many times I tell the people about my life which is not the most difficult one but is not any better than that of an educated person from the east, north or central.

Ethnic (cultural) diversity and public spending

We talked a little bit in class today about the link between ethnic (cultural) diversity and public spending. The empirical record seems to find that the more ethnic diversity in a polity, the less public spending–health, education, etc.–there is. A recent article in the American Political Science Review (Habyarimana et al. 2007) addresses the theoretical mechanisms that may underlie this empirical association:

A large and growing literature links high levels of ethnic diversity to low levels of public goods provision. Yet although the empirical connection between ethnic heterogeneity and the underprovision of public goods is widely accepted, there is little consensus on the specific mechanisms through which this relationship operates. We identify three families of mechanisms that link diversity to public goods provision—what we term “preferences,” “technology,” and “strategy selection” mechanisms—and run a series of experimental games that permit us to compare the explanatory power of distinct mechanisms within each of these three families. Results from games conducted with a random sample of 300 subjects from a slum neighborhood of Kampala, Uganda, suggest that successful public goods provision in homogenous ethnic communities can be attributed to a strategy selection mechanism: in similar settings, co-ethnics play cooperative equilibria, whereas non-co-ethnics do not. In addition, we find evidence for a technology mechanism: co-ethnics are more closely linked on social networks and thus plausibly better able to support cooperation through the threat of social sanction. We find no evidence for prominent preference mechanisms that emphasize the commonality of tastes within ethnic groups or a greater degree of altruism toward co-ethnics, and only weak evidence for technology mechanisms that focus on the impact of shared ethnicity on the productivity of teams. (my emphasis)

Thus, what the experimenters found was that (at least in their experiment) co-ethnics were more likely to co-operate in a strategic setting than non-co-ethnics. An additional important factor is the ability of the threat of social sanction to be stronger within a homogenous social group, presumably due to more closely linked social networks. (“I’ll tell your mother on you!” as a threat has more of a potential enforcement effect if you think the person making the threat may actually know your mother. And the likelihood of that person knowing your mother increases, other things being equal, if s/he shares the same ethnicity as your mother.

Germany’s National Soccer Team and Citizenship Law

Citizenship, O’Neil writes, is “an individual’s relationship to the state, wherein states swear allegiance to that state and the state in return is obligated to provide rights to those citizens.” Each state has the right to determine the basis upon which individuals-residents and non-residents alike–fulfill the requirements of citizenship. (Indeed, the extent of citizen obligations also varies from state to state.) As you know, there are three ways in which citizenship can be acquired: jus soli (birth on the territory of the state), jus sanguinis (on the basis of blood relations), and naturalisation.

Prior to changes in its citizenship law in the late 1990s, Germany was a state that based its citizenship law almost exclusively on jus sanguinis. That is, if one were (considered to be) a part of the German nation (“folk”), then one could relatively easily acquire German citizenship, even if they were not born on the territory of the modern German state. Conversely, even those who were born in Germany (and whose parents had also been born and raised in Germany) but were not nationally (or “ethnicity”) German could not obtain German citizenship. A vivid example of the impact the recent changes in German citizenship law have had on German society comes from international soccer (football, really!) where we can see the rosters of two respective German national teams. One of these rosters is the starting lineup for the 1974 World Cup Final (West Germany defeated the Johan Cruyff-led Dutch 2-1 in Munich), while the second is Germany’s starting lineup for the 3rd-place game (Germany defeated Uruguay 3-2) at this past summer’s World Cup held in South Africa. Which one is which? (Note, in order to be eligible to play for an international match for a country, the player must be a citizen of that country,)

N.B.: If you are a soccer fan, you’d be able to distinguish which roster belongs to which year on the basis of the position names (DM,, RW, AM, FW, etc.) alone! Soccer tactics sure have changed a bit over the last few decades!

Theories of Ethnic Identity Formation and Ethnic Violence & Ivory Coast

In IS 309 this evening, we assessed the strengths and weaknesses of three competing theories of ethnic identity (and ethnic violence)–constructivism, primordialism, and instrumentalism. We read the following:

  • Fearon, James D. and David D. Laitin. 2000. Review: Violence and the Social Construction of
    Ethnic Identity,” International Organization, 54:4, pp. 845-877
  • Harvey, Frank P. 2000. Primordialism, Evolutionary Theory and Ethnic Violence in the Balkans:
    Opportunities and Constraints for Theory and Policy,” Canadian Journal of Political Science, 33:1,
    pp. 37-65
  • Collett, Moya. 2006. Ivoirian identity constructions: ethnicity and nationalism in the prelude to
    civil war,” Nations and Nationalism, 12(4), 613-629
  • Kaplan, Robert. D. 1993. Balkan Ghosts: A Journey through history Part I and One Chapter from each of Parts II, III, and IV.
  • Hechter, Michael. 1995. Explaining Nationalist Violence,” Nations and Nationalism, Vol 1(1), 53-68.
  • We then viewed a video on the breakdown of political life in the Ivory Coast and the descent of that once relatively prosperous west African state into civil war. The civil war was characterised as a battle between the “Muslim-populated north and the Christian-dominated south.” How accurate is this characterisation of the ethnic character of Cote D’Ivoire’s civil war?


    For information about the current political situation, in the wake of the refusal of former(?) President Laurent Gbagbo to acknowledge having lost power in elections held several weeks ago, watch these.

    New and Old Wars Reading Questions

    Here are some questions that we will try to answer in class, based on the Mueller, Kalyvas, Collier & Hoeffler, and Kaldor readings:

    Thematic Questions:

    1. How has the nature of warfare changed (or has it) over the course of the last 70 years or so? Provide evidence from at least four sources.
    2. Comparatively assess the arguments of Collier & Hoeffer, Kalyvas, Mueller, and Kaldor. What are some commonalities? Divergence of opinion?
    3. What are the policy implications–from a humanitarian perspective–of taking each of the authors’ arguments seriously? Discuss.

    Collier & Hoeffler (2004) “Greed and Grievance in Civil War

    1. De fine `greed’ and `grievance’ in the context of the analysis of rebellion/civil war.
    2. What are the types of causal mechanisms that each term implies?
    3. What do C & L mean by `opportunity’?
    4. Based on the statistical results, what conclusion do C & L draw regarding the causes of the onset of rebellion?
    5. What is the analytical importance of diaspora communities?
    6. How important are ethnic grievances in fomenting rebellion?

    . Mueller (2000) The Banality of `Ethnic War’

    1. Why does Mueller put the words ethnic war in scare quotes in the title?
    2. What does Mueller mean when he says that ethnic war is `banal?’
    3. What evidence does Mueller use to support his main argument(s)?
    4. According to Mueller, what are the stages of ethnic war and ethnic cleansing?
    5. What is `ethnic cleansing’?
    6. Did ethnicity play any role in the inter-ethnic violence in Yugoslavia and Rwanda? Continue reading “New and Old Wars Reading Questions”

    Does Africa Need a New Map?

    In a recent article in Foreign Policy magazine, G. Pascal Zachary argues that it’s time to redraw Africa’s political borders, which are “unnatural” and a legacy of 19th and 20th-century colonialism. As is well-known the newly independent states that comprised the Organisation for African Unity met in 1964 and agreed that the extant international borders in Africa were sacrosanct, believing that this would best guarantee stability on the continent. It worked, to a degree. While there have certainly been very few international (i.e. inter-state) wars in Africa in the intervening 45 years, the continent has been ravaged by intra-state (i.e., internal, or “civil”) wars during the same period. What are the potential benefits of redrawing Africa’s borders to make them more coterminous with ethnic boundaries (as has been done recently in, amongst other places, the Balkans and the former Soviet Union)? Zachary’s claim:

    Borders created through some combination of ignorance and malice are today one of the continent’s major barriers to building strong, competent states. No initiative would do more for happiness, stability, and economic growth in Africa today than an energetic and enlightened redrawing of these harmful lines.

    How important is for for state strength and stability for ethnic and political border to be coterminous? The redrawing of borders–and it is obvious that the mechanism would be military force–would almost certainly lead to tremendous suffering and bloodshed, with competing campaigns of ethnic cleansing. But, as Zachary notes, since the start of the post-colonial era millions of Africans have died in internal conflicts, and:

    Rethinking the borders could go far to quelling some of these conflicts. Countries could finally be framed around the de facto geography of ethnic groups. The new states could use their local languages rather than favoring another ethnicity’s or colonial power’s tongue. Rebel secessionist movements would all but disappear, and democracy could flourish more easily when based upon policies, rather than simple identity politics. On top of that, new states based on ethnic lines would by default be smaller, more compact, and more manageable for governments on a continent with a history of state weakness.

    Assuming that the political will to achieve this goal were to evolve, what would be the best mechanism? What would Herbst’s argument be? Is this even feasible? Where would one draw the new boundaries? How would one define an ethnic group? Refer to these two maps to get a sense of the near impossibility of the task at hand. While there are about 50-odd states in Africa, there are literally hundreds of geographically-concentrated ethnic groups. In addition, there is a tremendous amount of inter-mingling of ethnic groups as well.