This paper explores the role of voluntary associations in recent policies that address ethnic conflict where they are portrayed both as a source of division but also as part of a policy solution. This role in policy relies on the assumption that bridging social capital in associations that bring diverse people together can spill over to larger effects. Reporting recent research in Northern Ireland, the paper challenges this view both theoretically and empirically and finds that an important limiting factor is the degree of recognition collective identities gain outside the specific settings in which they are generated.
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