Negotiating Ethnic Conflict in Deeply Divided Societies: Political Bargaining and Power Sharing as Institutional Strategies

  • Madhushree SekherEmail author
  • Mansi Awasthi
  • Allen Thomas
  • Rajesh Kumar
  • Subhankar Nayak
Reference work entry


With interest in social institutions expanding, and the centering of attention on state as an institution that is essentially cultural, a major interest in recent literature on ethnicity studies is on people, communities, and societies – (i) as collective actors in relation with the state as the sovereign authority and (ii) the process of interface between the state and the ethnic groups that constitute the ethno-demographic profile of the state. This, on one hand, has brought a shift in the focus on state and the modern state-system in studies on ethnic conflict, from the conventional perspective that viewed ethnic conflicts as a condition under state failure. On the other hand, the emphasis on the cultural base of the state has brought the state-system into the core of the state-society causal argument, driving interactive processes. An important condition that underlies the state-ethnic group(s) causal interface is the perceived inequalities of communities. It is this that can become a condition for likelihood of ethnic conflict. Political representation, beyond the domain of electoral politics, is an important nonmilitary institutional strategy for expressing perceived inequalities and for negotiating conflict in ethnically divided societies. With movements and protests becoming central to state-society interactive processes, this chapter looks at power sharing and political bargaining as an institutional strategy that ethnic groups employ for addressing their grievances, particularly in diverse societies. The chapter is based on a study carried out in India. It redraws the focus away from formal structures to various methods of power sharing that run through all levels of society and the role played by civil society organizations, interest groups, and ethno-political organizations.


Ethnic conflict Perceived inequalities Political representation Power sharing India’s democracy 



Research for this chapter was carried out as part of the R4D project on “Ethnic Power Relations” (see The financial support from the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Swiss Development Agency through Grant No. 400240-147210 is gratefully acknowledged. We also acknowledge the support and expert advice of Lars-Erik Cederman, Simon Hug, and Radu Carciumaru and the comments from participants at the International Political Science Association (IPSA) conference at Brisbane, 2018.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Madhushree Sekher
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mansi Awasthi
    • 2
  • Allen Thomas
    • 2
  • Rajesh Kumar
    • 2
  • Subhankar Nayak
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policies (CSSEIP)Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS)MumbaiIndia
  2. 2.Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS)MumbaiIndia

Section editors and affiliations

  • Radomir Compel

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