International Journal of Business and Social Science

ISSN 2219-1933 (Print), 2219-6021 (Online) DOI: 10.30845/ijbss


Language and Religion: Different Salience for Different Aspects of Identity
Kürsad Turan

The salience of ethnic identity as a cause of domestic and international conflict received extensive coverage in the literature. Even though they recognize the multi-dimensional nature of ethnicity, most early studies treated the concept as uni-dimensional. More specifically, they focused on ethnic differences in general, mostly on what aspect of their identity groups differed and which differences are more likely to lead to violent conflicts. As it has been widely accepted, ethnic identities can develop along various lines (linguistic, religious, racial, etc.) and it would not be realistic to expect all of these dimensions to have the same level of salience for the individuals that belong to those groups. The question we must ask ourselves is which one of these dimensions is more likely to lead an ethnic group to conflict? Some of the more recent studies emphasized religion as a more salient aspect of ethnic identity. Here, I argue that, although religion is an important aspect of an individual’s identity, it is linguistic differences that are more likely to lead to conflict by limiting individual’s ability to self-express, communicate with others effectively, and take advantage of the opportunities available in that society. This is because when we look at conflicts between a state and an ethnic group one must keep in mind that the asymmetric nature of the actors may cause different motivations and salience levels. In order to test this argument, I build a two-equation simultaneous equations model that look at different characteristics of ethnicity and their impact on the coercive behavior by the ethnic group and the government. The results reveal that the issue may not be as straightforward as one may think.

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