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Recognising the way that political systems’ failure to accommodate ethnic diversity can increase the likelihood of violent conflict, political scientists have in recent years expended much energy debating the character of appropriate political institutions for divided societies. However, a key limitation of these debates is that they have focused solely on the question of how best to represent an established (if often severely divided) citizenry (whether, for example, to represent citizens as members of ethnic groups, geographical regions, or as individuals). Consequently, the question of how the citizenry itself is constituted has largely been ignored. In this article, I aim to show why those who desire to avoid the tyranny of the ethnic majority – the dominance of one ethnic group over others – also have reason to concern themselves with the possibility of a tyranny of the citizenry – the illegitimate rule of the formal members of a society over those lacking in membership. I argue that how citizenship is distributed (who has access to it and who is excluded) in a society may be an important factor in explaining the existence of horizontal inequalities (understood as economic, social and political inequalities between groups in a society) and in their reproduction over time. The distribution of citizenship is thus likely to impact upon societal stability and the likelihood of conflict. Drawing in part upon empirical examples, I consider how people, both as individuals and as members of ethnic groups, become non-citizens and the factors that may force them to remain so over time in the country in which they reside. In Section 5, I explain why it is important for those interested in horizontal inequalities to consider how the issue of citizenship is distributed across a society and particularly across ethnic groups. In the final section of this paper, I reflect upon the vexed question of what it means to distribute citizenship fairly. Throughout this examination my focus is on formal, legal citizenship and the rights associated with it.

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