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Lecture at Lund University: Socio-economic and political horizontal inequalities and Sons of the Soil conflict in Asia

October 29, 2014 - 10:15-12:00

Guest lecture with Isabelle Cote

Recent instances of large-scale inter-provincial migration have resulted in open clashes between indigenous populations and migrants—i.e., ‘Sons of the Soil’ (SoS) conflict—in several minority regions around the world. Yet, equally large population movements have been peacefully integrated elsewhere. Under what conditions does internal migration lead to SoS conflicts? Based on quantitative population data and over 100 interviews conducted in nine months of fieldwork in China and in Indonesia, I argue that large and consistent socio-economic and political Horizontal Inequalities (HIs) between migrants and locals is a key condition explaining why some minority regions erupt in SoS conflicts while others remain relatively quiet. Fearing demographically-induced socio-economic and political marginalization, local communities resort to violence against migrants when the latter appear to benefit disproportionately from their relocation at the expense of the local population –i.e. when they are “dominant migrants” with close connection to the State and its dominant ethnicity. However, any single dimension of HIs is unlikely to result in SoS conflict independently. It is the coalescing of various mutually-reinforcing HIs that render the situation most explosive.  Yet, local people do not always act on these grievances and mobilize against migration. A favourable institutional context is necessary for migration-related tensions to transform into SoS conflicts. Alongside HIs, I contend that political liberalization influences the likelihood, frequency and intensity of SoS conflicts, as it affects internal migratory patterns and local people’s abilities to organize or mobilize against migrants. As political liberalization also contributes to socio-economic and political inequalities between migrants and locals, it simultaneously tilts the balance of power between groups.
By analyzing the different migration trajectories and how they relate to SoS conflict, this dissertation highlights the conditions transforming the otherwise peaceful internal migration into a violent process. The empirically-informed model herein developed puts migrant/local relations squarely at the center of our analysis, providing a more nuanced and disaggregated analysis of the different dimensions of their relations. While the empirical focus is on migration-conflict dynamics in China and Indonesia, the model developed provides important insights for countries with large-scale internal migration to minority regions.

Isabelle Cote
Graduated from the University of Toronto’s Political Science department, and soon starting a position as postdoctoral fellow at KITLV in Leiden (the Royal Netherlands Institute for Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies).

Location: Lund University, Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies, Scheelevägen 15, Room 2065 (conference room)




Lecture at Lund University: Socio-economic and political horizontal inequalities and Sons of the Soil conflict in Asia


October 29, 2014