This paper, by Ken Schultz at Stanford, was the final stimulus that pushed me to set up this new category so it is appropriate that it is the basis of my first post.
Here is how Ken describes his work:
“This paper explores the determinants of territorial conflicts among African states using a novel geospatial data set that maps disputed and undisputed borders. The geospatial approach helps eliminate problems of aggregation and selection on the dependent variable in studies of territorial conflict, as well as permitting fine-grained analysis of the local determinants of disputes. The data are used to test several hypotheses pertaining to the partitioning of ethnic groups, the presence of natural resources, natural vs. artificial borders, and state power. We find that border segments that partition ethnic groups are at higher risk of conflict only when the ethnic group is dominant, politically and demographically, within the state or has a high level of political centralization and that these effects are most pronounced early in the life of the state. The presence of oil or mineral deposits does not systematically increase the risk of a dispute, while river borders are less likely to be contested. The results suggest that territorial claims were, in large part, a tool for governments in newly-independent states to build support among politically important groups and to build ethnically-based national identities in relatively homogeneous states.”