Macro- and micro-level theories of violence in ethnic and non-ethnic civil wars

Ravi Bhavnani*, Dan Miodownik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In examining both macro- and micro-level approaches to the study of civil war, this chapter considers scholarship in each of these traditions that either regards or disregards ethnicity as an essential explanation for violence. Given the voluminous literature on the subject, a select set of theories is reviewed: opportunity-based aggregate level arguments which address the causes of violence in non-ethnic civil wars; cross-national studies that evaluate the role of ethnicity using measures of fractionalization and polarization, as well as more recent configurational approaches that explicitly account for power differentials among politically relevant ethnic groups; micro-level approaches that analyze the dynamics of rebel recruitment, retention, and support, as well as the role that information, monitoring, and control play in the selective targeting of civilians; and disaggregated theories that explore the endogenous relationship between violence, ethnicity, and individual behavior. The chapter concludes with a brief review of existing macro-level datasets, as well as more recent efforts to build micro-level datasets that hold promise for bridging the macro-micro divide.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationWar
Subtitle of host publicationAn Introduction to Theories and Research on Collective Violence
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)9781612095929
StatePublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2011 by Nova Science Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.


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