Todd A. Culp

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Schubert, James N.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Political Science


Thailand--Social policy--20th century; Ethnicity--Thailand; Ethnic conflict--Thailand; Malays (Asian people)


Ethnic conflict has become a leading cause of mass violence in the world. A person's sense of who they are, their identity, can be a powerful motivating force whether that identity is founded upon ethnicity, religion, or language. Many scholars have suggested that identity is a crucial part of the problem in situations of ethnic conflict. Yet very little empirical work relating identity to political violence has been done. The tense relationship between the Muslim-Malay population in southern Thailand and the Thai government provided an opportunity to empirically test the impact of several types of identity in ethnic conflict. For most of the twentieth century, increases in separatist sentiments among the Muslim-Malays corresponded directly to attempts by Thai government officials to implement assimilationist policies that were intended to make them more Thai and more Buddhist. David Brown claims that both the ethnic elite and the masses play a crucial role in any explanation of ethnic conflict. In stage one of his model he describes a crisis of identity at the mass level caused by state penetration of the peripheral areas. The current study uses intergroup emotion theory (IET) and optimal distinctiveness theory (ODT) to explore the psychological process behind this crisis of identity at the mass level. ODT suggests that threats to identity, in certain circumstances, are enough to make people experience emotion such as anger which is associated with action rather than avoidance. IET explains how negative appraisals of a situation can lead to specifically the emotion of anger and that anger is associated with a specific action tendency: aggression. The current study tests whether a threat to a person's cultural distinctiveness is sufficient to produce a negative appraisal and cause the emotional response of anger and the behavioral response of aggression. Further, it tests if this environment enhances the ability of elites to persuade people to engage in political violence. The findings support the hypothesized relationship between identity threat and political violence. Applications of the model to other regions where identity conflict is prevalent are discussed.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [208]-222).


vi, 237 pages (some color pages)




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type