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The search for order: understanding Hindu-Muslim violence in post-partition India

Corbridge, Stuart, Kalra, Nikki and Tatsumi, Kayoko (2012) The search for order: understanding Hindu-Muslim violence in post-partition India. Pacific Affairs, 85 (2). pp. 287-311. ISSN 0030-851X

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Identification Number: 10.5509/2012852287


One distinguishing feature of mainstream social science is its growing regard for model building and formal hypothesis testing. In South Asian studies this is most evident in accounts of ethnic riots or communal violence. This paper examines a model of votes and violence proposed by Steven Wilkinson. We first examine how well the model performs against a data set that we have assembled on the twenty worst incidents of communal violence in India since 1950. The Wilkinson model is consistent with some important key facts in our data set, most notably in terms of levels of urbanization and "percentage Muslims" in riotaffected towns and cities. However, proximity to national or state elections is not found to be a strong driver of prolonged ethnic rioting. Nor is it the case that India's worst instances of communal violence occurred mainly where there was direct electoral competition between less than 3.5 effective political parties, the other main predictive variable in the Wilkinson model. We then discuss the limitations more broadly of attempts to explain and even predict ethnic violence within the framework of a quantitative model. We pay attention to time inconsistencies, principal-agent problems, religiosity and the homogenization of riot events, and omitted variables (notably, memory work and ideological fervour). We conclude with some general remarks on the search for order in social science.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2012 Pacific Affairs
Divisions: International Development
Asia Centre
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2012 12:17
Last Modified: 16 Aug 2022 23:17

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