Two central questions have guided scholarship on ethnic riots: identifying factors that motivate groups to mobilize for violence and analyzing state responses to these conflicts. Risa Toha's book, Rioting for Representation: Local Ethnic Mobilization in Democratizing Countries, breaks new ground in addressing both questions by examining the ethnic violence that swept across Indonesia during its democratic transition. In a compelling account that weaves together detailed quantitative evidence with qualitative fieldwork, Toha argues that ethnic groups previously excluded from power during three decades of authoritarian rule under the New Order regime used violence to demand increased political access in Indonesia's new democracy. When these demands were accommodated through institutional reform, the violence stopped.
Scholarship on riots has mostly examined mature democracies, where elites are experienced in running for competitive elections and improve their chances of winning by mobilizing for violence before or during voting.1
What sets Toha's book apart is that it examines riots in a transitional setting, where new democratic rules are being tested and ethnic elites are uncertain about how they will fare in a new set-up. The analysis shows that Indonesia's first freely held elections in 1999 produced considerable subnationa
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