Friday, September 27, 2013
2:30pm – 4:30pm
MIT Center for International Studies, Lucian Pye Conference Room, E40-496
The first of six lectures in the Brown-Harvard-MIT Joint Seminar on South Asian Politics
Scholars of ethnic conflict often posit that individuals strategically highlight the identity that will allow them to be part of the winning political coalition. We show that there is an asymmetry in how identities are mobilized. Some identities are easier to mobilize than others, above and beyond strategic political concerns. Some identities, such as Hindu in India, are largely mobilized through political parties and organizations, and they follow the political calculus. Other identities, however, have independent social organizations (i.e., mosques) that have the legitimacy to play a direct political role. Such identities can be mobilized by direct identity appeals even when the party system is not aligned around these identities. We conduct various survey and get-out-the-vote experiments to support our argument. Our survey experiments show that Muslims have greater confidence in political appeals if they appear to be from leaders using Muslim religious symbols. In contrast, Hindus, even if observant, do not report greater confidence in leaders using Hindu religious symbols. In our get-out-the-vote experiments, Muslims, unlike Hindus, are responsive to religious appeals even in a state where the political parties do not separate on the religious dimension. However, both Hindu and Muslim voters can be induced by subtle religious appeals to change their voting behavior in states where the political parties are religiously divided.