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Do Grievances Matter in Ethnic Conflict? An Experimental Approach


Renat Shaykhutdinov, Department of Political Science, Florida Atlantic University, Social Science 384, 777 Glades Rd., Boca Raton, FL 33431, USA [e-mail:].


In this article, we examine the relative deprivation argument, which, drawing on the frustration–aggression hypothesis, proposes that members of aggravated ethnic collectivities are more likely to engage in protest compared with less-frustrated groups. We examine the arguments presented by the grievance literature using experimental analysis, a potentially powerful, yet rarely employed methodology for the study of ethnic conflict. This methodology enables us to consider not only the grievance hypothesis itself, but its theoretical underpinning: the frustration–aggression thesis. The experimental scenarios are based on college rivalries depicted as analogous to interethnic relations. Employing college rivalries in the experimental design can help us understand the basic foundations behind ethnic strife. The experimental findings support the contention that higher levels of frustration and relative deprivation (grievance) increase the probability that groups will resort to noninstitutional means to achieve their political goals.