Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2019

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Political Science

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



In this dissertation, I examine how elite rhetoric about past inter-group violence affects citizens’ post-conflict social and political attitudes. To do so, I conducted a survey experiment in the post-conflict country of Bosnia. In the first substantive chapter, I find that when individuals are reminded of the violence that was committed against their co-ethnics, they adopt negative views of out-group members. However, in the subsequent chapter, I find little evidence that this rhetoric induces individuals to ostracize co-ethnics who socially engage with out-groups. Combined, these findings indicate that (1) rhetoric about past violence makes reconciliation less likely by engendering negative attitudes toward out-groups, but (2) individuals who are open to inter-group engagement can still be effective conduits for positive inter-group contact. The next chapter considers how this kind of rhetoric impacts citizens’ views of ethnic and multi-ethnic parties. I find that it reduces support for ethnic parties but not multi-ethnic ones. This suggests that recalling past violence generates negative attitudes toward the political actors who are the most clearly responsible for the original breakdown in peace: ethnic parties. Finally, in the last substantive chapter, I show that rhetoric about past violence does not significantly affect policy preferences. This provides reason for optimism in post-conflict societies, where elites may have little incentive to keep war memories alive because citizens’ policy preferences are unlikely to respond in expected ways to such manipulation.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Margit Tavits

Committee Members

Deniz Aksoy, Daniel Butler, David Carter, Matthew Gabel,


Permanent URL: