Exit over voice in Dominican ethnoracial politics

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2015-12

Authors

Contreras, Danilo Antonio

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Abstract

What explains why ethnoracial identity is of low salience in elections in Latin America, particularly in Afro-Latin America? Marginalized individuals in ethnoracially diverse societies, especially stratified ones, would seem most likely to mobilize politically along ethnoracial lines. I argue that, under certain conditions, individuals will deal with ethnoracial discrimination and stratification through exit rather than voice. That is, they will reclassify their way out of marginalized ethnosomatic categories instead of voting for candidates and parties that share their ethnoracial identities. This tends to be the case where ethnoracial group identity is inchoate and group boundaries are permeable. High levels of stratification combined with low degrees of ethnoracial group consolidation will typically prevent the activation of ethnoracial identity in elections. Whereas ethnoracial stratification provides the incentive structure for individuals to switch ethnoracial categories, inchoate ethnoracial group identity and permeable ethnoracial boundaries lower the transaction costs to doing so. I also argue that individuals may emphasize national origin over race or ethnicity where ethnoracial group loyalties are weak and immigration is widespread. I test my argument against competing approaches using quantitative, qualitative, and experimental evidence from the Dominican Republic. The evidence suggests that the confluence of stratification and inchoate ethnoracial group identity indeed has prevented the activation of ethnoracial cleavages in elections in the DR. This same combination, however, has not impeded the activation of national origin in elections. Rather than strengthening the salience of ethnoracial cleavages in elections, nationalism has helped to redirect those cleavages.

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