Demographic Engineering and the Colonial Transition
In this book project, I seek to uncover the conditions under which states coercively alter their ethno-national composition by expelling minorities and settling peripheral lands. I have compiled new geocoded data on the incidence of ethnic cleansing and settler colonialism from around the world in the late 20th century. I have also collected new sub-national data tracking the incidence of demographic engineering in 20th century China, the former USSR, Indonesia, Australia and Rwanda.
Rather than be explained by domestic politics, international norms, relative land availability, or ethno-racial ideologies, I find that patterns of settler colonialism and ethnic cleansing are shaped by the value of frontier territory and the military concerns of states. States disproportionately demographically engineer strategically important areas: non-natural frontiers and areas populated by secessionist and fifth column minorities. However, industrialization lowers the value of land to potential settlers and so reduces the capacity of states to manipulate the direction of internal migration. As such, as states industrialize, I find that they are no longer able to effectively alter the distribution of ethnic groups.
Rather, all states undergo what I term a colonial transition with industrialization — industrialized states are are both less likely to try to resettle populations and less likely to have success when doing so. Settler colonialism and ethnic cleansing are, for these reasons, best understood as a transitional phase in state building between state formation and full industrialization.
Components of this project have been recently published in World Politics and International Organization. For more on these papers, please see Research.