Group Violence, Ethnic Diversity and Citizen Participation: Evidence from Indonesia

christophe muller (Aix-Marseille University)
marc vothknecht (European Commission)

Abstract: We study the impact of violent conflict on social capital, in connection with local ethnic diversity. Social capital is measured by citizen participation in four kinds of community groups: governance, social service, infrastructure development and risk-sharing. Combining household panel data from Indonesia with conflict event information, we find an overall decrease in participation in districts affected by group violence in the post-Suharto transition period. However, participation is found to be little affected by violence in communities with a high degree of ethnic polarization, and is even stimulated for local governance and risk-sharing activities. Moreover, individual engagement appears to depend on the involvement of other members from the same ethnic group, which points toward the emergence of intra-ethnic social networks in the presence of violence. Finally, we find large observed and unobserved individual heterogeneities of the effect of violence on participation. Once heterogeneity is controlled for, the ethnic and social configuration of society is revealed as a core factor in understanding citizen participation as a response to violence, perhaps because subjacent ethnic group strategies are at work.

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