Segmentary Lineage Organization and Conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa


Moscona J, Nunn N, Robinson JA. Segmentary Lineage Organization and Conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa. Econometrica. 2020; 88 (5) : 1999-2036.
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We test the long-standing hypothesis that ethnic groups that are organized around `segmentary lineages' are more prone to conflict. Ethnographic accounts suggest that in segmentary lineage societies, which are characterized by strong allegiances to distant relatives, individuals are obligated to come to the aid of fellow lineage members when they become involved in conflicts. As a consequence, small disagreements often escalate to larger-scale conflicts involving many individuals. We test for this link between segmentary lineage and conflict across 145 African ethnic groups in sub-Saharan Africa. Using a number of estimation strategies, including an RD design at ethnic boundaries, we find that segmentary lineage societies experience more conflicts and particularly ones that are retaliatory, long in duration, and large in scale.


Last updated on 09/23/2020