Scholars have worked either on civil society or on ethnic conflict, but no systematic attempt has yet been made to connect the two. In an attempt to explore the possible links, this article makes two interconnected arguments. First, interethnic and intraethnic networks of civic engagement play very different roles in ethnic conflict. Because they build bridges and manage tensions, interethnic networks are agents of peace. But if communities are organized only along intraethnic lines and the interconnections with other communities are very weak (or do not exist), ethnic violence is then quite likely. Second, civic networks, both intra- and interethnic, can also be broken down into two other types: associational forms of engagement and everyday forms of engagement. This distinction is based on whether civic interaction is formal or not. Both forms of engagement, if robust, promote peace: contrariwise, their absence or weakness opens up space for ethnic violence. Of the two, however, the associational forms turn out to be sturdier than everyday engagement, especially when confronted with attempts by politicians to polarize the people along ethnic lines. Both arguments have significance for theories of ethnic conflict and social capital.


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pp. 362-398
Launched on MUSE
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