Reframing Kurtz's Painting: Colonial Legacies and Minority Rights in Ethnically Divided Societies
Social Science Research Network
Minority rights constitute some of the most normatively and economically important human rights. Although the political science and legal literatures have proffered a number of constitutional and institutional design solutions to address the protection of minority rights, these solutions are characterized by a noticeable neglect of, and lack of sensitivity to, historical processes. This Article addresses that gap in the literature by developing a causal argument that explains diverging
... of minority rights protections as functions of colonial governments' variegated institutional practices with respect to particular ethnic groups. Specifically, this Article argues that in instances where colonial governments politicize and institutionalize ethnic hegemony in the pre-independence period, an institutional legacy is created that leads to lower levels of minority rights protections. Conversely, a uniform treatment and depoliticization of ethnicity prior to independence ultimately minimizes ethnic cleavages postindependence and consequently causes higher levels of minority rights protections. Through a highly structured comparative historical analysis of Botswana and Ghana, this Article builds on a new and exciting research agenda that focuses on the role of long-term historio-structural and institutional influences on human rights performance and makes important empirical contributions by eschewing traditional methodologies that focus on single case studies that are largely descriptive in their analyses. Ultimately, this Article highlights both the strength of a historical approach to understanding current variations in minority rights protections and the varied institutional responses within a specific colonial government.