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Chapter 4
Comparative Politics: Structures and Choices 2e
By Lowell Barrington
Identity Structure
Learning Objectives
 Describe the various types of politically relevant
collective identities.
Explain why various forms of identity work as sources
of political mobilization.
Describe the strategies a government may take in
response to ethnic diversity, and explain the conditions
under which these responses are likely to be more or
less accommodating.
Compare and contrast the major identity divisions in the
TIC countries.
Summarize the main findings of this chapter’s Research
in Context section.
 Definition
 Set of characteristics by which individuals or groups
are known to themselves and others
 In-groups, Out-groups, and Perceptions of
 Membership boundaries
Think and Discuss
Why is identity so effective as a tool for political
elites who are trying to mobilize members of the
general public?
Forms of Collective Identity
National identity
Race, Ethnicity, Tribe, and Clan
Race – contested form of identity
Ethnic identity (ethnicity) – most important group identity
Tribal and Clan Identity - associated with shared blood
 Religion
 Christianity
 World’s largest religion, around one-third of the world’s
 Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox
 Islam
 The world’s second largest religion, making up 20
percent of the world’s population
 Has significant internal divisions, most notably Shi’ite
and Sunni Muslims
Think and Discuss
How are Islam’s Five Pillars—the belief that
“There is no true God except Allah, and
Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah,” prayer
five times per day, fasting during Ramadan,
charity to the poor, and a pilgrimage to Mecca
at least one time during one’s life—similar to
and different from the core “pillars” of
 Religion
 Judaism
 Has had a major impact on international politics
 Became a national identity after the Holocaust, when the
state of Israel was founded
 Hinduism
 The world’s third largest religion, making up 15 percent
of the world’s population
 Gandhi stressed its peaceful, nonviolent traits
 Buddhism
 Like Hinduism, originated in India
 Based on one individual (Buddha) and self-reflective
 Sex/Gender
 Sex is the biological term; gender involves
perceived differences that shape identities
 Gender is the social understandings of traits, roles,
and behavioral differences between men and
women and their political attitudes and behaviors
 Class
 Considered one of the most important social
 Intrastate Regional Identity
 Transnational Regional Identity
Complementary and CrossCutting Identity Divisions
 Complementary Identity Divisions
 Also called complementary social cleavages or
accumulative social cleavages
 Cross-Cutting Identity Divisions
 When group identity boundaries do not coincide
with one another
Government Responses to
Identity Diversity
 Genocide
 Ethnic Cleansing
 Assimilation
 Integration
 Accommodation
 Ethno-federalism
 Recognizing Independence Claims
Think and Discuss
What factors might lead a government to take
more tolerant or less tolerant actions against
ethnic, racial, or religious minorities? What
strategies has the American government used
in response to ethnic, racial, and religious
Topic in Countries
 The United Kingdom
 Class cleavages have become less important than
ethnicity, region (esp. important in Scotland), and
 Conflict between Catholics and Protestants in
Northern Ireland; new focus on Muslims, esp. since
7/7 terrorist attacks
Topic in Countries
 Germany
 Class has historically been an important cleavage,
but now ethnicity and religion are the major
cleavages (Turks)
 Regional cleavages also exist (east versus west)
 Genocidal policies of Nazis replaced by greater
desire for integration, but citizenship laws remained
restrictive for immigrants
Topic in Countries
 India
 Hindu-Muslim tensions remained following the
partition; caste and gender important as well
 Identity complexity in India limits complementary
divisions; instances of complementary identity
groups are relatively localized
 Affirmative action for certain groups based on past
discrimination; combination of accommodation and
repression of regional movements demanding
greater autonomy
Topic in Countries
 Mexico
 Divide between mestizo and indigenous population
present but weakened by diversity within indigenous
 Region, class, and ethnicity (indigenous vs. mestizo)
are complementary because of concentration of
poor, indigenous population in the south of the
 Past efforts at assimilation of minority groups giving
way to greater accommodation of indigenous
Topic in Countries
 Brazil
 Class remains most significant division; emerging
religious division between majority Catholics and
growing evangelical Protestants
 Race is strongly correlated with economic standing
 Past efforts at integration only moderately
successful; greater support for accommodation
Topic in Countries
 Nigeria
 Hundreds of recognized ethnic groups; sharp
divisions among the three largest (Ibo, Yoruba,
Hausa-Fulani); Christian-Muslim tensions, esp. in
 Ethnicity and region are strongly complementary;
reinforced by religion, with most Muslims in the
north and Christians in the south
 Past efforts to develop attachment to overarching
Nigerian identity had limited success; today,
emphasis is on harmony and unity rather than
Topic in Countries
 Russia
 Ethnicity, religion, and region are important
collective identities
 Interethnic marriage limit ethnic tensions, but
growing divide between ethnic Russians and
minorities in Russia’s south
 Under tsars and Soviets, combination of assimilation
and ethno-federalism; ethno-federal system
remains, but with discrimination against many
minority groups
• Cleavage Structure Theory
Highlights the importance of complementary identity
Political implications, including increased tensions and
difficulties for democracy
Russia and Its Regions of Tatarstan and
Sharper complementary divisions in Chechnya
Cleavage structure theory helps explain greater levels of
conflict between the Russian government and the region
of Chechnya
Topic in Countries
 China
 Emerging class divisions; resentment among
rural poor; ethnic minorities in border regions
 Ethnicity and region are the most common
complementary group identities because of
minority concentrations in border areas
 Balancing act between integrating and
accommodating minority groups and repressing
those seen to be politically threatening
In Theory and Practice
Primordialism, Constructivism,
and Identity in China
 Primordialism
 Identity groups form naturally, based on deep-rooted
 Constructivism
 Identity groups form through “social construction”
 “Radical Middle Position”
 Named by Historian Ronald G. Suny
 Contends that identity is constructed, but efforts to
construct it are limited by existing conditions
 Examination of ethnicity in China supports the radical
middle position
Topic in Countries
 Iran
 Religious tensions between majority Shi’ites and
minority Sunnis; large ethnic minorities (Azeris,
Kurds); gender represents important source of
tension due to erosion of women’s rights
 Main complementary group identities are ethnicity
and region, with the Azeri and Kurdish populations
regionally concentrated
 Discrimination against non-Shi’ites; close monitoring
of ethnic groups large enough to form nationalist
In Theory and Practice
Feminist Theory and Iran
 Feminist Theory
 Focuses on the importance of gender and obstacles
women face in achieving political, economic, and social
 Feminists in comparative politics highlight patriarchal
state structures
 Iran is Classic Example of the Contentions of
Feminist Theory
 Status of women is a major policy issue in contemporary
 President Ahmadinejad has pushed for even more
conservative/traditional gender roles
In your opinion, which theory related to
identity presented in this chapter’s “In
Theory and Practice” boxes is most
convincing? Why?