Comparing Popular and State Violence against Ethnoreligious Minorities

Kerice Doten-Snitker, Santa Fe Institute

How are popular violence and state violence against ethnoreligious minorities related? Insomuch as they might have similar political correlates, they are separate processes, of mobilization versus policy-making. This paper compares antisemitic pogroms and expulsions in medieval Germany. Political mobilization theories connect popular violence to policy choices by policy-makers, predicting that pogroms precipitate expulsion. Some theories of the state interpret popular violence as an indication of state weakness, which should then mean that policy-makers in those contexts lack the capacity to expel and that pogroms substitute for expulsion. The symbolic nature of ethnoreligious difference introduces another possibility, that popular violence fulfills a ritual and boundary-maintaining function and is thus repeated without demand for or the occurrence of state violence. Descriptive and Bayesian regression analyses of antisemitic violence medieval German cities evidence an interaction between political mobilization, state capacity, and religious boundary maintenance. Where cities had local control, Christians were more likely to commit pogroms and then expel Jews. Cities with absent or weak rule were more likely to have pogroms without expulsions. While most expulsions occurred in cities where pogroms had happened previously, the temporal gap between pogroms and expulsions was often quite large. The gap was smaller when a pogrom was explicitly religiously-motivated. Yet cities governed by Christian ecclesiastics were not more likely to have pogroms or expulsions than secularly-governed cities. State strength did not constrain violence but instead channeled antisemitism into policy. Popular antisemitism preceded state antisemitism.

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 Presented in Session 6. Religion, Power, and Culture in European History