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Nationalism, Ethnicity and Religious Conflict Professor Eric Kaufmann Birkbeck College, University of London

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Presentation on theme: "Nationalism, Ethnicity and Religious Conflict Professor Eric Kaufmann Birkbeck College, University of London"— Presentation transcript:

1 Nationalism, Ethnicity and Religious Conflict Professor Eric Kaufmann Birkbeck College, University of London twitter: @epkaufm

2 Ethnic Group Comprehensive Definition a collective proper name a myth of common ancestry shared historical memories one or more differentiating elements of common culture an association with a specific 'homeland' a sense of solidarity for significant sectors of the population

3 Nation Comprehensive definition: a collective proper name occupation of a historic territory integrated territorial economy and communications infrastructure common political myths and memories mass, public culture Does NOT require own state to be a nation

4 Nationalism -A particularist social and political movement for attaining identity, unity and autonomy on behalf of a social group, whose leaders believe it to constitute an actual or potential 'nation.‘ - A universal ideology which posits that: The world is divided into nations, each with its own particular character The nation is the proper source of political power Everyone must belong to/owe primary loyalty to their nation Every nation must seek full autonomy World order must be based on free nations

5 ‘Imperfect Fit’ Between Cultural and Political Units Many cultural units under one political roof (Spain, Nigeria) One cultural unit under multiple roofs (Arab world, pre-1871 Germany) Non-territorial immigrant groups upsetting the congruence between culture and politics (multicultural Germany, USA)

6 But are ethnic groups and nations natural or invented? Why Catalonia and not Galicia? Arab or Egyptian, Sumerian, Phoenician? Do states invent divisions? Do ethnic entrepreneurs invent divisions?

7 Are ethnic groups and nations ‘natural’ or invented? 3 schools: modernist, ethnosymbolist, primordialist Motivation for creation and reproduction of nations and ethnic groups

8 Source: Vanhanen 1999

9 Largest Ethnic Group % (Vanhanen 1999)

10 Secession and Self- Determination 195 states, 6000 ethnic groups Separatism vs Self-determination Former need not imply a desire to break free: Federalism - group representation at institutions of centre; power to federal unit Devolution of powers: legislature, symbols/culture, taxation, military Self-Determination aims not inevitable (60% of 285 in MAR dataset 1945-2003); Violent rebellion even less so (25% of self-determination cases)


12 Ethnic Fractionalization (Fearon-Laitin 2003)

13 Why Violence? Vanhanen suggests that ethnic heterogeneity inevitably leads to ethnic conflict, including violent ethnic conflict EH =.536, much stronger than GDP/head (-.208) or Democracy (-.089) Fearon and Laitin 2003 – rough terrain, weak state, low GDP per capita, oil curse. Ethnic diversity does not matter. Depends how you measure conflict (onset, duration, size of war)

14 Religion and Nationalism

15 Religion Spiritual function ‘Tribal’ function: Durkheim Aspects: I.Religious texts II.Religious customs, rituals and practices as identifiable cultural markers III.Religious institutions and clergy Can be Ethnic/Nationalist or Anti-Nationalist

16 Religious Texts Often Oppose Nationalism Division between This World and Other World: “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” – Matthew 20:21 'People should give up their pride in nations because this is a coal from the coals of hell-fire. If they do not give this up Allah (swt) will consider them lower than a lowly dung worm which pushes itself through feces.' (Muhammad's hadith recorded by Abu-Dawood and al-Tirmidhi)

17 Religion vs Nationalism Anti-clerical nationalism Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim resistance Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism often less anti- nationalist Is Salafi-Jihadi Islamism nationalist or anti-nationalist?

18 Does Religious Compassion Dampen Ethnic Violence? Clearly not when the 'Other' is demonised as heathen and dehumanised But religious emphasis on proselytism and ethics can restrain: Conquistadors v Indians in Spain Missionaries in German SW Africa Catholic priests and clerical Orangemen during the N. Irish Troubles (1969-94) act as a brake on violent sectarianism

19 Conclusion Problems of nationalism concern the overlap of culture and politics, whether actual or constructed Cultural differences within states are only sometimes politicised, and only sometimes violent Weak states, rugged terrain, myths and memories, and poverty can interact with diversity to produce ethnic violence Ethnic nationalists view immigration as a threat to cultural-political congruence State nationalists view cultural autonomy and power sharing as threats to cultural-political congruence Religion sometimes reinforces, sometimes opposes, nationalism Religion sometimes reinforces, sometimes opposes, nationalist violence

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