Violence “from above” or “from below”? The Role of Ethnicity in Bosnia’s Civil War

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Journal of Politics 73(4), 1178-1190

The literature is divided as to how ethnicity affects wartime patterns of violence in civil wars. This article conducts an assessment of the relative impact of two competing explanations for violence in Bosnia’s civil war. One account of this conflict attributes violence to the intentions of ethnic groups to create ethnically homogenous territories, thus advocating a macroterritorial explanation where the origin of violence is external to the locations it is perpetrated at. Competing theories, however, describe violence in Bosnia as a result of local ethnic resentment and fear that were activated once the war had started. Results from spatial regression provide evidence for violence “from above” and “from below,” showing that there is evidence for both macro- and microeffects of ethnicity on violence. In addition, I estimate a finite mixture model that is able to tell where and under which conditions the respective mechanisms apply best.