DGPA Seminar: Eclipse: Celestial Superstition, In-group Solidarity, and Violence in Africa

Speaker: Prof. Kyosuke KIKUTA, Research Fellow at Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization

Date:10 Jan 2024 (Wed)

Time:15:00 – 17:00

Language: English

Venue: E21B-G002

Abstract: The current study examine whether politically irrelevant but deeply cultural events—solar and lunar eclipses—can cause violence in Africa. Based on psychological theories, it is hypothesized that lunar and solar eclipses stir up a feeling of fear, which in turn is misattributed to out-groups and thus triggers violence. By exploiting exogenous variations in the dates, visibility, and weather conditions of the 99 lunar and solar eclipses for 1990-2022 in Africa, it is found that lunar and solar eclipses immediately and significantly increased communal violence. The study also explore causal mechanisms by using individual-level surveys, finding that the eclipses stirred up a feeling of fear, raised distrust toward out-groups, and increased in-group solidarity. The effects are particularly large in presence of negative folklore about eclipses, the Islamic religion, ethnic discrimination, and poverty. These results support both primordialist and instrumentalist views; cultural events can directly cause violence or can be instrumentally used for political and economic reasons.