Post-conflict shifts in interethnic attitudes
Martin, David Claud
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In this study I attempt synthesis of mainstream accounts of ethnic conflict with theories derived from social psychology to shed light on the nature of persistent interethnic antipathies after conflict. Many theoretical approaches focus on ethnic prejudice as a cause of conflict; I argue that more attention should be paid to the effect of conflict as an independent variable on interethnic attitudes. I examine the evidence for a link between conflict exposure, psychological trauma and interethnic attitudes in the former Yugoslavia, arguing that exposure to violence during a critical period of psychological development can significantly decrease one’s trust for ethnic others relative to those of other age groups. While a direct link is elusive from the results in this study, I suggest that better data collection and more precise theorizing may yield more positive results. I conclude with a discussion of the relevance of this research to peacebuilding and reconciliation.