Political Representation in Divided Societies

15 - 16 Nov 2018, Brussels
Workshop sponsored by PSA Ethnpolitics specialist group, IPSA RC14 Politics and Ethnicity, and Brussels School of International Studies, University of Kent, in Brussels

Whose identity counts for political participation after protracted identity-based conflict? What are the consequences for those identity groups not explicitly included in any institutional dispensation? How do such groups navigate the new post-conflict institutional terrain?

This 6th Annual Conference of the PSA SG Ethnopolitics will query the impact of ethicized political representation on participation in divided societies. We invite contributions that examine participation and representation of groups whose concerns, issues and priorities are not taken up in the either the process of adopting new political institutions or in the implementation of those arrangements. While most studies of divided societies focus on relations between the groups that represent the dominant cleavage in society, we welcome contributions that examine the impact of postconflict institutions on groups not explicitly accommodated in democratic political institutional setting. We invite paper proposals that address the normative, empirical, and conceptual challenges confronting participation and representation in Divided Societies.

Ethnicized politics clearly pose constraints on minorities in divided societies, particularly those committed to a non-identitarian politics. These constraints can be formal (e.g., rules of representation that require community designation limit the political space for minorities) or informal (e.g., a political culture that privileges ethnic representation tends to disproportionately focus on ethnic matters at the expense of more bread and butter political issues) (Murtagh 2015). Yet it is also worth noting that such arrangements may provide critical opportunities for minorities, who may find themselves in a balance-of-power role. The elevation of the Alliance Party in Northern Ireland Executive to the highly sensitive Justice Ministry in 2010 outside of the normal portfolio allocation rules is one example (McGarry and O’Leary 2017).

Consequently, different types of minorities will face different kinds of constraints avenues and opportunities for participation depending on the level of ethnicization of political institutions. Micro-minorities seeking ethnic representation may find accommodationist systems more amenable to their demands, given that they already adhere to a logic of ethnic representation. However, groups, such as the Roma, who are territorially dispersed may find themselves marginalized across several states (Agarin and Cordell 2016). Likewise, women lobbying for gender quotas may find power-sharing arrangements, which may already be organized along some kind of quota system willing to accede to their demands (Bell 2018). By contrast, groups that eschew the very logic of the political system or who attempt to find alternative forms of political engagement – such as Bosnia’s protest and plenum movement – may find it difficult to gain an entry point into the political framework (Milan 2018).

We seek to bring together scholars concerned with this question from a range of perspectives, disciplines and fields, including but not limited to: democracy in divided societies, conflict resolution, democratization, post-conflict state building, political settlements, ethnic politics, gender, nationalism and national identity, migration and equality and diversity studies.

Key questions addressed in the conference will be:

· How do minority groups experience ethnicised institutions?

· What opportunities and constraints do these groups encounter in such settings?

· How can power-sharing institutions better accommodate these collectives?

· What strategies do non-dominant actors use to mobilise within these political structures?


The Ethnopolitics specialist group organises this year’s conference jointly with the RC14 Politics and Ethnicity, International Political Studies Association, the Brussels School of International Studies, University of Kent in Brussels and the ESRC Project Exclusion Amid Inclusion, Queen’s University Belfast.

The conference will take place at the University of Kent, Brussels Campus, Blvd Louis Schmidtlaan 2a, 1040 Brussels, Belgium (See ). There is no conference participation fee; we will be able to provide catering for conference attendees, however we are unable to offer any bursaries for participants; all presenters will need to arrange for their travel and accommodation individually, although we will be able to advise on these issues.


Organising committee: Timofey Agarin, Queen’s University Belfast; Drew Mikael, Queen's University Belfast; Amanda Klekowski von Koppenfels, Brussels School of International Studies, University of Kent

University of Kent - Brussels Campus
Blvd Louis Schmidtlaan 2a
1040 Brussels