What kinds of civic ties between different ethnic communities can contain, or even prevent, ethnic violence? This book draws on new research on Hindu-Muslim conflict in India to address this important question. Ashutosh Varshney examines three pairs of Indian citiesone city in each pair with a history of communal violence, the other with a history of relative communal harmonyto discern why violence between Hindus and Muslims occurs in some situations but not others. His findings will be of strong interest to scholars, politicians, and policymakers of South Asia, but the implications of his study have theoretical and practical relevance for a broad range of multiethnic societies in other areas of the world as well. The book focuses on the networks of civic engagement that bring Hindu and Muslim urban communities together. Strong associational forms of civic engagement, such as integrated business organizations, trade unions, political parties, and professional associations, are able to control outbreaks of ethnic violence, Varshney shows. Vigorous and communally integrated associational life can serve as an agent of peace by restraining those, including powerful politicians, who would polarize Hindus and Muslims along communal lines.
Ashutosh Varshney is Associate Professor of Political Science and Director, Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life is an outstanding work of social science,one of the most important studies of ethnic violence to appear in many years. This book will decisively shape future scholarly research on this subject and deserves to have an important impact on public policy concerning ethnic conflict.