Today’s session in IS 309 addressed the link between globalization and ethnic conflict. Our main reading material came from Amy Chu’s book, World On Fire, the thesis of which is that the twin phenomena of economic globalization and the spread of liberal democracy cause ethnic conflict in countries that have “market-dominant minorities.” Cynthia Olzak’s recently published article in the Journal of Conflict Resolution answers the same question in this way:
This article examines how different components of globalization affect the death toll from internal armed conflict. Conventional wisdom once held that the severity of internal conflict would gradually decline with the spread of globalization, but fatalities still remain high. Moreover, leading theories of civil war sharply disagree about how different aspects of globalization might affect the severity of ethnic and nonethnic armed conflicts. Using arguments from a variety of social science perspectives on globalization, civil war, and ethnic conflict to guide the analysis, this article finds that (1) economic globalization and cultural globalization significantly increase fatalities from ethnic conflicts, supporting arguments from ethnic competition and world polity perspectives, (2) sociotechnical aspects of globalization increase deaths from
ethnic conflict but decrease deaths from nonethnic conflict, and (3) regime corruption increases fatalities from nonethnic conflict, which supports explanations suggesting that the severity of civil war is greater in weak and corrupt states.
Chua’s book was received with some praise but also with a fair amount of criticism. Here are some links to videos that may be of interest to you:
In 1947, the UN General Assembly voted 33-13 (with 10 abstentions and 1 absent) in favour of a resolution (181) that would partition Palestine between Jews and Arabs. Today in IS309 we watched Benny Brunner’s documentary, Al Nakba (“the catastrophe”, in Arabic), which sets out to tell the story of the partition, the ensuing civil war, and the Arab-Israel war of 1948. The documentary was based on the historian Benny Morris’ book, The birth of the Palestinian refugee problem, 1947-49. We discussed (at times heatedly) issues regarding the morality/efficacy of partition as a potential solution to some situations of inter-ethnic conflict. In addition, we read Chaim Kaufmann’s article “When all else fails: Population Transfers and Partitions in the Twentieth Century,” which argues that there are situations where partition is a legitimate policy approach to inter-ethnic violence.
As many of you may know, since the early 1900s March 8th is used to observe International Women’s Day. In honour of this day, the Microcon group, which is a group of scholars who analyze violent conflict using micro-level approaches, has made publicly available a set of research papers related to sex, gender, and violence.
International Women’s Day
These publications are being issued to coincide with the International Women’s Day, which takes place on 8th March each year. Annually on 8 March, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements towards gender equality.
MICROCON is working on gender issues in conflict-affected areas in two main ways. First of all, it has a set of three projects which take gender as the main object of their analysis. The policy briefing below by Kathleen Jennings is the product of one of these projects.
Secondly, MICROCON is attempting to meet the EU guidelines in relation to gender equality, by bringing in women researchers at all levels, addressing women’s specific needs in its research rather than working in a gender neutral fashion in all aspects of our work, and ensuring that everything we do ‘contribute[s] to an enhanced understanding of gender issues’. The paper below by Colette Harris assesses our progress in this respect, and attempts to demonstrate how gender can be used at different conceptual levels in conflict analysis, and what can be gained from this analytically.
For more information see MICROCON’s gender framework, and visit the International Women’s Day website.
Of particular interest is a research working paper by Colette Harris, ” What Can Applying a Gender Lens Contribute to Conflict Studies? A review of selected MICROCON1 working papers”:
It is rare to find gender a specific focus of scholarship in conflict studies. In MICROCON we have tried to place gender in a central position within all projects and to convince all researchers to use a gender lens for their analysis. This paper uses a set of MICROCON working papers to illustrate how gender can be used at different conceptual levels in conflict analysis, and aims to show what can be gained by the use of a gender lens. The papers bear out Enloe’s insistence that those seeking an in-depth understanding of the social and political world require a feminist curiosity – that is, a curiosity about the roles gender categories play in political debate and action, as well as in scholarship.
In a recent post, I made reference to a fascinating and very informative BBC documentary that deals with the final days of British rule on the Indian subcontinent and the eventual partition of that territory in 1947 into a Muslim-dominated Pakistan (east and west) and a Hindu-dominated India. In part four of the documentary an elderly Sikh gentleman from the Punjab region tells the harrowing tale of how his female relatives were the victims of brutal violence. Many scholars have argued that the ethnicization of the violence that accompanied the Partition obscure the fact that women bore the brunt of the violence. In a recent paper, Richard Lee writes about the gendered nature of the violence:
Women were arguably the worst victims of the Partition of India in 1947 and endured displacement, violence, abduction, prostitution, mutilation, and rape. However, on reading histories of the division of India, one finds that the life-stories of women are often elided, and that there is an unwillingness to address the atrocities of 1947. This reticence results partly from the desires of the Indian and Pakistani governments to portray the events as freak occurrences with no place in their modern nations. Literature can play an important role in interrupting state-managed histories, and ‘The Rebirth of Inherited Memories’ focuses upon the manner in which Shauna Singh Baldwin’s What the Body Remembers (2001) unsettles official versions of Partition. It examines how the novel acts as a counterpoint to ‘national’ accounts of 1947 through its depiction of the gendered nature of much of the violence, and it explores Baldwin’s representation of the elusive concept of ‘body memory’. The possibility of remembrances being passed on physically, or born within people, has found support in the eschatologies of Eastern religions, in Western psychological theories, and in recent scientific investigations into the ‘mind-body’ problem. The transmission of ‘body memories’ between generations serves to disrupt accounts that downplay the brutalities at the splitting of India. This paper draws upon a chapter of my doctoral thesis that investigates issues of memory and the enduring influence of Partition in South Asia.
In a new report, the International Crisis Group (ICG) claims that the Ivory Coast is on the verge of another civil war. The ICG places the blame for the precarious political situation in that west African country squarely on the shoulders of Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to acknowledge defeat in the most recent president election. For the executive summary, click here, where you can also find a link to the full report, which is only available in French currently.
Côte d’Ivoire is on the verge of a new civil war between the army loyal to the defiant Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to acknowledge he lost the November 2010 presidential election, and the “Forces nouvelles” (FN), the ex-insurgency now supporting the winner, Alassane Ouattara. The vote should have ended eight years of crisis, but Gbagbo, staged a constitutional coup and resorted to violence to keep power. The result is a serious threat to peace, security and stability in all West Africa. The African community should not be influenced by the support that Gbagbo enjoys from a part of the population that has been frightened by the ultra-nationalist propaganda and threats of chaos of a militant minority. It must act decisively, not least to defend the principle of democratic elections, but key countries show signs of dangerous disunity. Any proposal to endorse Gbagbo’s presidency, even temporarily, would be a mistake. His departure is needed to halt a return to war.
The November election was intended as the culmination of a painstaking peace process that began after the September 2002 rebellion and was endorsed by many agreements, the latest being the Ouagadougou Political Agreement (OPA) of March 2007. Gbagbo, like all other candidates, took part in the election on the basis of a series of compromises reached on all aspects of organisation and security.
There is no doubt Ouattara won the run-off.
The importance of international borders can not be overstated. Despite predictions that the combined forces of globalization would undermine the importance and political meaning of borders, the territorially-defined state remains the world’s predominant form of political organization. As multi-national empires/states collapse, much of the violence that ensues is the result of efforts to draw and redraw what had once been internal borders. Here is a fascinating documentary about the partition of the Indian sub-continent, into India and Pakistan. The narrator observes:
As a British barrister draws a line on a map, the once peaceful land implodes. People are forced out of the villages they have lived in for generations. Fifteen million scramble to be on the right side of the border. At least one million die in the process.
What are the prospects for an independent Kurdish state to form out of the wreckage of Iraq? How likely is it that Kurds who live in 5 separate states will set aside their differences long enough to coalesce around the common goal of creating a state for the Kurdish people? As we now know, the Kurdish territory in northern Iraq has enjoyed a high degree of autonomy since the establishment by Great Britain, France, and the United States of the “no-fly zones” in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War. (Interestingly, the no-fly zones were established by these three states for putatively humanitarian purposes and had not received official sanction by the United Nations Security Council. For more, click here.)
Following the war-induced collapse of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime in 2003, the Kurds of Iraq have enjoyed de facto independence in northern Iraq, with a temporary “capital” at Irbil (though the Kurds wish to reclaim the city of Kirkuk, located in the middle of an oil-rich region, as the capital of any independent state in northern Iraq). In IS 309, we read Michael Ignatieff’s chapter on Kurdistan, from his 1993 book, Blood and Belonging, which provides a snap-shot of the situation of the Iraqi Kurds some two years following the establishment of the no-fly zones. Ignatieff addresses the potential for greater autonomy of the Iraqi Kurdish region from the Iraqi state/regime of Hussein and finds skepticism on the part of most Kurds. Fast-forward almost twenty years (has it been that long!!) and we find the situation on the ground has changed substantially. The difficulties, though, seem to remain and the prospects for Kurdish independence are no less clear today than they were some twenty years ago, particularly given the Turkish state’s response to Kurdish separatist sentiment on the territory of eastern Turkey. Here are a couple of interesting short documentaries on the current state of the Kurdish independence movement in Iraq and Turkey.
Here’s a video on the Kurdish situation in Turkey.
The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have prompted similar uprisings in many other countries of the Middle East and North Africa. Though the vast majority of the populations in each of these countries are Muslim, the societies are far from homogeneous. In addition, to social class and ethnic cleavages, Brian Ulrich–Assistant Professor of Middle East History–notes the Sunni/Shi’a sectarian split within Islam:
The sectarian split between a Shi’ite majority and Sunni monarchy and minority matters, but not in a straightforward way. The country’s rulers have played a game of divide and rule, one which seems to have accelerated over the past few years which have seen an increase in anti-Shi’ite discrimination. Presumably hoping to keep smaller the popular base to which they must dispense patronage while tying that base to them ideologically, the Al Khalifa dynasty has portrayed Shi’ites as potential Iranian catspaws and pointed to Iraq as an example of the negative consequences of Shi’ite democratic empowerment. What you see in the government’s rhetoric is an attempt to cast the Shi’ites themselves as the sectarian ones primarily on the grounds of their Shi’ism, much like the Mubarak and Ben Ali regime claimed to suppress Islamic extremism.
Bahrain has also seen major protests before, with a 1990’s “intifada” almost exclusively Shi’ite demographically. During that period, the key to the uprisings’ longevity was a social base in the winding narrow streets of the Shi’ite neighborhoods in and around Manama that the mostly South Asian police had trouble penetrating.
Here’s the video of an interesting debate on the Shi’a/Sunni division in Islam, with some very interesting guests, including U. of Michigan Professor of Middle Eastern History, Juan Cole, who has a very informative blog on Islam and Middle East politics.
Here is the video we watched yesterday in IS 309. The video reported on inter-ethnic violence (between those of east Indian heritage and Creoles/Africans/Blacks) that was occurring in the northern South American country of Guyana in 2004. I used the video to highlight some of the themes Horowitz explores in chapters 3 and 4 of Ethnic Groups in Conflict. What are some of the issues that you noticed when watching the video? For a good analytical study on inter-ethnic violence in Guyana from 1948-1999, see this article in the Journal of Peace Research. I provide the abstract for you below:
Coercive and elitist approaches to political control in post-colonial states like Guyana have often proved counterproductive with respect to resolving ethno-political conflicts in these parts. In Guyana, this contradiction is usually manifested in terms of the escalation of legitimate political competition into overtly violent ethno-political violence and polarization, and reinforced by the consequent devaluation of the more democratic or pacific alternatives to conflict resolution such as mass or grass-roots participation, intergroup negotiations, and third-party mediation. Recurring debates between Cultural Pluralists and Marxists on this issue have so far failed to shed light on the prospects for the more pacific approaches to conflict resolution. Closer analytic scrutiny of actual ethno-political conflict events in Guyana between 1948 and 1999 leads to the understanding that such conflicts derive largely from what is termed a continual crisis of political legitimacy reflected in the inequities of political representation and economic resource distribution across groups. The more democratic or pacific approaches are here suggested as most appropriate for the resolution of the political legitimation crisis and the ultimate realization of a sustainable peace among the diverse groups in the Guyana political system.
Last week in IS 302, we addressed the issue of how governments should approach the existence of ethnic division in a post-conflict setting. We saw that Rwanda and Burundi have chosen different approaches. Burundi’s leaders have decided to address ethnic grievances via assuring ethnic balance in important institutions such as the military. Rwanda’s government has chosen a different approach, endeavouring to make the society as ethnicity-blind as possible. As such, there has been a zero-tolerance policy with respect to any demonstration or acknowledgement of ethnic particularism. As a recent Amnesty International report states unequivocally:
Rwanda’s laws banning “genocide ideology” and “sectarianism” are vague and sweeping, and have been used to silence legitimate dissent. The laws were designed to encourage unity and restrict speech that could lead to hatred. However, they have had dangerous and chilling effect on Rwandan society.”
The most recent example of this “dangerous and chilling effect on Rwandan society” is news of the conviction of two Rwandan journalists of having “stirred up ethnic divisions.” As this BBC article makes clear, it seems highly likely that President Paul Kagame has been using the role of “hate media” during the Rwandan genocide to silence legitimate opposition:
Editor Agnes Nkusi was sentenced to 17 years, while reporter Saidath Mukakibibi was imprisoned for seven. Among several articles, the judge referred to one saying some Rwandans were unhappy with the country’s rulers. Prosecutors said this was “meant to stir [up] hatred and fury against the government”.
President Paul Kagame came to power in 1994, ending the genocide in which some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered. He has recently been accused of intolerance and harassing anyone who criticises him. His government defends its tough media laws, pointing to the role of “hate media” ahead of the genocide.
The newspaper was suspended for six months last year, just ahead of elections which saw Mr Kagame re-elected by a landslide. Nkusi was found guilty of disrupting state freedom, propagating ethnic division, genocide revisionism and libel.