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We assume that groups of people with a shared identity seek to exert their influence over their surroundings, and that they are prone to incite conflict when others in this region demonstrate a different identity or values. From this hypothesis, the importance of the role of boundaries becomes clear. NECSI’s ethnic violence model identifies two regimes that lead to non-violent outcomes; when groups are thoroughly mixed a multicultural identity emerges with no single type perceiving ownership, and when they are separated into large quasi-independent regions. Conversely, when groups of one type occupy a geographical region that is sufficiently large that they feel it is theirs, but not so large as to separate them from others, the propensity to engage in violence is increased.
Here the words 'large' and 'small' are relative to a characteristic size of the groups that are formed. This emerges as the single parameter of our model. We simulate the effects of migration over time causing like agents to group together, in analogy with the agglomeration of small droplets of oil mixed with water over time. The size of the resulting groups determines the propensity to violence.