Traditional Authorities, Norm Collisions, and Communal Conflict

Clara Neupert-Wentz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


I examine the effect of the policing capacity of traditional authorities (TAs) on communal conflict. TAs of ethnic groups use distinct customary laws and dispute-resolution mechanisms. Their coexistence with national norms and those of other TAs results in parallel legal systems. I argue that this generates uncertainties about norms and vertical and horizontal jurisdictional conflict, which increases the risk of communal conflict. However, this effect can be dampened by state-level rules on norm collisions, which lead to a system of co-production and less violence. To investigate these claims, I use global georeferenced expert survey data on customary policing of TAs and data measuring their constitutional regulation. I show that customary policing can have an adverse effect on communal peace. More subgroups of the larger ethnic group with policing institutions increase the risk of conflict. State-level regulation moderates these relationships. Additional evidence suggests that policing increases communal conflict through vertical jurisdictional conflict but otherwise achieves its intended purpose of providing security.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Conflict Resolution
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • communal conflict
  • customary policing
  • legal pluralism
  • traditional authority


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