PLSC 437. The Politics of Ethnic and National Identity

Last time taught: Fall 2019

Social identities matter because they inform our political preferences and views, and the way we interact with others, and behave politically. Two of the most salient identities in our societies are ethnic and national identities. In ethnically homogeneous nations, these two identities are bound together. However, most nations today are made up of multiple ethnic groups, and some other ethnic groups spread across multiple nations. One way or another, ethnic and national identity are not equivalent, and this has sizeable political consequences on the supply and the demand side. 


This course introduces students to the study of ethnic and national identity by focusing on individuals and groups (ethnic groups, and nations). We will learn, for example, how individuals’ identities are shaped, how they become salient, and how and when they influence vote choices. We will also learn why some ethnic identities have become politically salient while others remain dormant, and how important collective identities are for political phenomena (e.g. wars and democratic transitions).


This course relies on research from several disciplines: history, economy, sociology, psychology and political science. The course is also comparative. Over the semester, we will “travel” to multiple places in the world to understand the importance of identity across different contexts.