Places to Hide: Terrain, Ethnicity, and Civil Conflict

Forthcoming, Journal of Politics

36 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2019

See all articles by David Carter

David Carter

Pennsylvania State University

Andrew Shaver

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

Austin L. Wright

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy

Date Written: June 21, 2018

Abstract

Terrain is central to understanding why some countries have contentious ethnic divisions, while others do not. While most existing research specifies a direct effect of rugged terrain on civil war, i.e., rugged terrain impedes state efforts to counter rebellion, we argue that terrain has an overlooked indirect effect on civil war via its historical influence on ethnic diversity. We argue that access to variable rugged terrain facilitated the development and survival of more distinct ethnic groups by 1.) restricting interaction between populations in rugged areas and nearby territories, and 2.) complicating state repression. Both of these channels imply that ethnic groups residing in variable rugged areas are also at greater risk of political marginalization or discrimination. Using geo-coded data on civil war, terrain and both the distribution and political status of ethnic groups, we demonstrate that rugged variable terrain directly and indirectly affects the incidence of civil war. Around 25% of rugged terrain’s effects on civil conflict are transmitted indirectly through its influence on the distribution and exclusion of politically relevant ethnic groups.

Keywords: civil war, terrain ruggedness, ethnic diversity, political violence

Suggested Citation

Carter, David and Shaver, Andrew and Wright, Austin L., Places to Hide: Terrain, Ethnicity, and Civil Conflict (June 21, 2018). Forthcoming, Journal of Politics. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3316962

David Carter

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

University Park
State College, PA 16802
United States

Andrew Shaver

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

Austin L. Wright (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.austinlwright.com

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