Great interview with Ashutosh Varshney, an Indian political scientist investigating ethnic violence. From New Scientist, via Damien Morton on FoRK.
So what is the key to predicting which communities will turn violent and which will remain peaceful in times of ethnic unrest?
It comes down to how the cities or villages are structured, and the networks that people form across religious or ethnic divides. In India I have identified two types of civic network, which I call the associational and the everyday. The everyday type covers things such as Hindu and Muslim children playing together and their families and friends visiting each other or eating with each other, or taking part in festivals together. The associational type involves the two groups being members of the same trade unions, sports clubs, student unions, reading clubs, political parties or business organisations. Associational structures go beyond neighbourhood warmth, and in times of unrest they are much more robust. They can be a serious constraint on the polarising strategies of political elites. Places with strong networks of this kind are very likely to remain peaceful.