Abstract: This article advances a non-groupist understanding of the foundation, operation and self-perpetuation of states that scholars have hitherto labelled ethnocracies or ethnic democracies. Such states create and ignite zero-sum internal conflicts between portions of their populations. They do so by demarcating the population into ethnic categories. They apply labels to individuals and hierarchically order the categories to which they are deemed to belong, awarding one cohort more privilege than the other. Existing literature on such states has obscured the processes by which states reify and institutionalise identity, instead presenting it through groupist frames in which ethnicity is a pre-existing variable. Re-conceptualising the doing of ethnicity as a process enables us to study internal dissent against ethnic privilege and consider its transformational capacity in inspiring new nationalist discourses.