Street Fight, Competition and Identification, Clientelism

PS140O: Projecting Power

Prof Wasow


Puzzle of Ethnicity in Politics

How to Test?

  • Afrobarometer cross-national survey
    • Data consist of 35,505 responses from 22 separate survey rounds conducted in 10 countries: Botswana, Malawi, Mali, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
  • Advantages over case studies or anecdotal evidence
    • More generalizable
    • Address possible confounding

How to measure group identification?

We have spoken to many [people in this country, country X] and they have all described themselves in different ways. Some people describe themselves in terms of their language, religion, race, and others describe themselves in economic terms, such as working class, middle class, or a farmer. Besides being [a citizen of X], which specific group do you feel you belong to first and foremost?

Identification is Open-ended

  • Allows multiple answers

  • Permits them to isolate the factors that are associated with attachments to different dimensions of social identity

  • They group respondents’ answers into five categories: ethnic, religion, class/occupation, gender, and “other”

  • Bias possible but one out of more than 175 questions asked in the standard Afrobarometer questionnaire

Discussion: What stands out about which identities are “first”?

Let’s hear from: Carlos, Elyana, Jovana, Wilfredo

Salience of many identities

Contrary to the stereotype that Africans are unidimensionally ethnic in their self-identifications, a minority of 31% of respondents identify themselves first and foremost in ethnic terms. Indeed, fewer respondents choose ethnic identities than class/occupation identities, which are chosen by 36% of respondents. In addition, responses vary tremendously across countries and, perhaps even more strikingly, within countries over time—a finding consistent with theories of ethnic identification that stress contextual variability.

Political logic of ethnic identification

“Instrumental” ethnicity

Elite model: “play the ethnic card”

  • “One prominent answer in the African politics literature emphasizes the role of political elites. By this account, politicians find it advantageous to “play the ethnic card” as a means of mobilizing supporters to acquire or retain political power”

  • “Politicians’ efforts at ethnic mobilization are especially likely to take place during the period immediately preceding elections”

  • Particularly when elections are close

Citizen model: Public goods & Patronage

  • “An alternative explanation…focuses on regular citizens—specifically, on their beliefs that jobs, favors, and public goods will be channeled disproportionately to coethnics of the person who is in a position to allocate them”

  • “Elections are the moment when the people who will control the allocation of resources are chosen, they are also the occasion when people should be most mindful of their ethnic identities and of the match between their own identity and that of the candidates vying for power”

Eifert, Miguel, Posner (2010)

  • Ethnic identities in Africa are strengthened by exposure to political competition
    • Proximity in time
    • Stakes in election
  • For every month closer to a competitive presidential election, respondents are 1.8 percentage points more likely to identify in ethnic terms
  • Increasing salience of ethnic identification corresponds with decreasing salience of class identification

Discussion: What questions do you have about paper or “instrumental” ethnicity?

Let’s hear from: Michael, Tamara, Alisa, Sara



Street Fight

Video Essay: Megha Joshi, Spencer Young, Michael Hudson, Marianna Zoellin

Discussion: What are some of the ways power works in Street Fight?

Let’s hear from: Abigail, Wyatt, Zachary, Spencer


“Race as a Bundle of Sticks”