Theories of Ethnic Identity Formation and Ethnic Violence & Ivory Coast

In IS 309 this evening, we assessed the strengths and weaknesses of three competing theories of ethnic identity (and ethnic violence)–constructivism, primordialism, and instrumentalism. We read the following:

  • Fearon, James D. and David D. Laitin. 2000. Review: Violence and the Social Construction of
    Ethnic Identity,” International Organization, 54:4, pp. 845-877
  • Harvey, Frank P. 2000. Primordialism, Evolutionary Theory and Ethnic Violence in the Balkans:
    Opportunities and Constraints for Theory and Policy,” Canadian Journal of Political Science, 33:1,
    pp. 37-65
  • Collett, Moya. 2006. Ivoirian identity constructions: ethnicity and nationalism in the prelude to
    civil war,” Nations and Nationalism, 12(4), 613-629
  • Kaplan, Robert. D. 1993. Balkan Ghosts: A Journey through history Part I and One Chapter from each of Parts II, III, and IV.
  • Hechter, Michael. 1995. Explaining Nationalist Violence,” Nations and Nationalism, Vol 1(1), 53-68.
  • We then viewed a video on the breakdown of political life in the Ivory Coast and the descent of that once relatively prosperous west African state into civil war. The civil war was characterised as a battle between the “Muslim-populated north and the Christian-dominated south.” How accurate is this characterisation of the ethnic character of Cote D’Ivoire’s civil war?

    For information about the current political situation, in the wake of the refusal of former(?) President Laurent Gbagbo to acknowledge having lost power in elections held several weeks ago, watch these.

    Introduction to Comparative Politics–Second Paper

    Here is the second paper, whose theme is “culture” (or not) and democracy.*”

    Introduction to Comparative Politics Paper–Culture and Democracy

    “In Islam, God is Caesar,in [Confucianism], Caesar is God; In [Eastern Christian] Orthodoxy, God is Caesar’s junior partner.”

    “The underlying problem for the West in not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam.”

    “Contemporary China’s Confucian heritage, with its emphasis on authority, order, hierarchy, and supremacy of the collectivity over the individual, creates obstacles to democratization.”

    The quotes above will serve as the inspiration for your second paper this semester. I would like you to argue in favor or against the claims made by Huntington quoted above. You can argue that they are basically true, essentially false, or some combination thereof2. Regardless, your task is to provide a reasoned, well researched response to the declarative statements above, using Chapters 5 and 6 in O’Neil, and the articles by Fish, Stepan, Perry, Zakaria, and any others we have read, as your starting points.

    Assess the arguments in light of what you know about the requirements (institutional, cultural, structural) of democracy and the nature of authoritarianism. Your outside research will most likely focus on understanding more about Islam, “Asian values,” and/or Christian Orthodoxy (as it is practiced in Eastern Europe).

    While the main focus of your paper will be in setting up an argument for or against the claims above, I would like you to then use two states–one “predominantly Muslim”, and one Asian (or Eastern Orthodox)–to illustrate your main arguments and to act as supporting evidence for your claims. Please use chapters 5 and 6 of the Essentials and of Readings as the main source for the paper. For information related to your specific states, you will have to consult at least 4 other academically reputable sources. Note that this means Google is not your friend here!! This will entail a trip down to the library by foot, or a virtual trip to the library’s electronic resources.

    Your paper should be 4-5 pages long, double-spaced on 8:5X11-inch paper, with 1-inch margins on the top, bottom, and the sides. The paper must be written in Times Roman 12pt. font. In addition, please cut and paste the “Paper Evaluation Sheet” from Blackboard to the end of your paper (after the works cited page). The paper is due electronically via Digital Dropbox in Blackboard by the beginning of class on Tuesday, April 15th.

    Good luck, you kings and queens of comparative!!

    *Note: See the version of this assignment posted to Blackboard as it has informative (and helpful) footnotes.

    Learning Objectives for Intro to Comparative

    Here are the learning objectives for my introduction to comparative politics course.  In other words, students who have taken that course should have developed the following competencies:

    • learning.jpgUnderstand and use the tools of both qualitative and quantitative analysis to ask and answer questions about substantive issues in comparative politics.
    • Identify the strengths and weaknesses of the comparative method and its variants.
    • Effectively discuss the development of comparative politics as a sub-discipline in the field of political science.
    • To be able to understand and effectively critique a state-of-the art scholarly article in the field of comparative politics.
    • Discuss competently the merits of empirical and statistical evidence that is used in the field of comparative politics.
    • Analyze various substantive issues in comparative politics from culturalist, institutionalist, and rational choice perspectives.
    • Express fundamental concepts in comparative politics both verbally and in written form.
    • Use extant on-line cross-national databases to access and find data appropriate to comparing countries across the world with respect to basic political attitudes and ideologies.
    • Describe and understand the tri-partite structure of society–state, civil society, and market–and understand the interactions amongst them.
    • Assess the nature of democracy–its causes, consequences and how democratic regimes vary across the world.
    • Develop a broad understanding of the nature of contemporary states across the world, from the most developed states to the least developed.
    • Acquire the ability and the tools to effectively compare the states of the world on a broad range of issues, from economic development, to state strength, to governance, and social diversity.
    • Write an effective critical paper on a topic related to comparative politics.
    • Effectively use the electronic educational tool, Blackboard, to upload and download materials, make use of discussion-type tools facilitating online discussion and interaction with class members outside of class sessions.
    • Locate appropriate library resources, both printed and electronic, to aid in the writing of critical papers.
    • Learn to find, assess the legitimacy and veracity of, and use online resources related to comparative politics.
    • Demonstrate a strong understanding of these aforementioned concepts in examination format, working under the pressure of a time limit.
    • Develop the skills necessary to effectively critically evaluate and discuss the production of political knowledge.
    • Develop the ability to become discerning and thoughtful consumers of political knowledge, whether that knowledge is created by politicians and other political leaders, the media, other citizens, or the students themselves.

    No Torture. No Exceptions.


    The above sketch by Thomas V. Curtis, a former Reserve M.P. sergeant, is of an Afghan detainee, Dilawar, who was taken into U.S. custody on December 5, 2002, and died five days later. Dilawar was deprived of sleep and chained to the ceiling of his cell—techniques that the Bush administration has refused
    to outlaw for use by the CIA. Further, his legs were, according to a coroner, “pulpified” by repeated blows. Later evidence showed that Dilawar had no connection to the rocket attack for which he’d been apprehended.

    One of the most important tenets of my teaching philosophy is to make the classroom a safe forum for diverse and competing points of view. In order to facilitate this, I believe that it is necessary, as much as is humanly possible, to refrain from promoting my own views and importing my personal biases into what I teach. I will temporarily put that tenet aside in order to address the topic of torture.

    The United States government tortures. That’s a difficult sentence for me to write. The human rights organization for which I worked in Croatia during the 1990s–the Croatian Helsinki Committee–was at the forefront of the effort in that country to stop human rights abuses, such as torture, that the Tudjman-led regime was committing during those years. I would often find myself in debate with individuals–soldiers, police officers, government officials, religious leaders, and average citizens–about the human rights abuses the government was committing. My argument was basically, “we (in Croatia) are being hypocritical if, on the one hand, we claim that we are superior–in some civilizational sense (this is argument that was made, though I don’t adhere to it)–to the Serbs because we are more “Western” and more democratic, yet we allow our government (with our support) to commit absolutely horrific human rights abuses. We should try to mimic the behavior, then, of Western democracies such as Canada and the United States rather than the abhorrent policies of the Milosevic regime.”

    My interlocutors would usually reply, “but, Canada’s, and America’s government would be doing the same thing if 1/3 of their territory was under foreign occupation.” I replied that they would not. I have to apologize to every single one of those people, because they were right and I was wrong. And it didn’t even take foreign occupation for the US government to begin to undermine the fundamental tenets upon which democracy and the respect for human dignity are based. My attitude towards torture is nicely captured by the title of a recent series on torture put out by the magazine Washington Monthly–“No Torture. No Exceptions.”

    We’ll take a look at the debate on torture near the end of the semester (in intro to IR) and we’ll see that the strongest moral claim for torture comes from a consequentialist (or utilitarian) perspective; this is why the “ticking bomb scenario” is customarily trotted out to refute deontological arguments. I will argue (and I encourage you to try to prove me wrong) that there are consequentialist reasons for not torturing. I encourage you to read the essays in “No Torture. No Exceptions.” (In fact, if you’re in intro to IR, you’ll have to.)

    U.N. Security Council Silent on Tibet Protests

    How do changing ideas about sovereignty–from sovereignty viewed as a “right” to sovereignty viewed as a “responsibilty”–affect the nature of how states act and the functioning of organizations such as the United Nations?  Just before spring break we viewed the documentary The Peacekeepers, where you were able to witness the deliberations that take place behind the scenes at the United Nations and the Security Council specifically. For Wednesday, we’ll read Erik Voeten’s article on “The Political Origins of the UN Security Council’s Ability to Legitimize the Use of Force”, the main point of which is obvious given the title. Today, the Guardian reports that the Security Council remains silent on the current situation in Tibet.

    UNITED NATIONS, March 17 (Reuters) – The U.N. Security Council will likely keep silent about China’s crackdown on demonstrations in Tibet, mostly due to belief that provoking Beijing would accomplish nothing, diplomats said on Monday.
    China, which has sent in troops to enforce control in the regional capital Lhasa, said earlier that the violent protests by Tibetans were organized by followers of the Dalai Lama seeking to derail the Beijing Olympics in August. Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader has denied this charge.
    “The issue did not come up in the council,” China’s Deputy permanent U.N. representative Liu Zhenmin told Reuters after a meeting of the council on unrelated issues. “This has nothing to do with peace and security,” he said. “It is local violence, … a domestic issue.”
    China, like the United States, Britain, France and Russia, is a permanent veto-wielding member of the council and would be able to block any attempts by the council to act on Tibet.
    Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, currently president of the council, told reporters without elaborating that he did not expect the 15-nation Security Council to discuss Tibet. Several other ambassadors confirmed this view.

    Book Review: “Justice in Conflict? The ICC and Peace Processes”,

    icc.jpgWe will be analyzing international law next week upon our return from spring break. The recently established International Criminal Court (ICC), an independent (i.e., it has no linkn to the United Nations, unlike the International Court of Justice–ICJ) international court located in the Hague, has in its short existence (it came into force in 2002) been the subject of heated debate between those who view it as a bold and necessary step in the fight for international justice, and those who view its powers as undermining to a dangerous degree state sovereignty.

    This week’s weekly letter from the International Crisis Group (ICG) contains a book review of Nicholas Waddell and Phil Clark’s “Justice in Conflict: The ICC and Peace Processes. The author of the review, Nicholas Gronko, writes:

    The International Criminal Court (ICC) is now investigating or prosecuting individuals involved in three of the most devastating conflicts in Africa – Darfur, northern Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In each case, the ICC has been forced to confront the challenges inherent in pursuing peace and justice simultaneously. What happens – and what should happen – when efforts to prosecute perpetrators of mass atrocities coincide with a peace process? What is the best approach when the price of a peace deal may be a degree of impunity for those most responsible for such abuses? One common and convenient response is to hide behind truisms and make general statements of principle to the effect that no trade-off is required because peace and justice are inextricably linked. Clearly peace and justice are complementary in that justice can deter abuses and can help make peace sustainable by addressing grievances non-violently. But good things don’t always go together, and to present peace and justice as invariably mutually reinforcing is misleading and unhelpful when the difficult reality of peacemaking often proves otherwise. We review below arguments surrounding the ICC’s impact on prospects for peace in Uganda and go on to offer some general considerations that international policymakers should heed when seeking to balance peace and justice demands.

    Here is a look at the 106 (most recent count) signatories to the Statute of Rome (which established the ICC).  States in green are signatories to the statute.


    How do you Prove You’re a Jew?

    Gershon Gorenberg has written a new article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine
    on the difficulties some Israeli Jews are having proving their Jewishness before rabbinic courts in that country.  The article is interesting and touches upon many of the issues we discussed in intro to comparative that deal with concepts of identity–nationhood, ethnicity, citizenship, etc.  In fact, I think I’ll be including this article in the syllabus during future iterations of this course.  In addition, I did not know that there is no civil marriage ceremony (marriage ceremonies are purely a religious affair in Israel) in Israeli law, but upon further reflection, I probably should have guessed that would be the case.

    The story is particularly significant for American Jews, to which the accompanying snippets below attest:

    02jewish1-500.jpgOne day last fall, a young Israeli woman named Sharon went with her fiancé to the Tel Aviv Rabbinate to register to marry. They are not religious, but there is no civil marriage in Israel. The rabbinate, a government bureaucracy, has a monopoly on tying the knot between Jews. The last thing Sharon expected to be told that morning was that she would have to prove — before a rabbinic court, no less — that she was Jewish. It made as much sense as someone doubting she was Sharon, telling her that the name written in her blue government-issue ID card was irrelevant, asking her to prove that she was she…

    …In recent years, the state’s Chief Rabbinate and its branches in each Israeli city have adopted an institutional attitude of skepticism toward the Jewish identity of those who enter its doors. And the type of proof that the rabbinate prefers is peculiarly unsuited to Jewish life in the United States. The Israeli government seeks the political and financial support of American Jewry. It welcomes American Jewish immigrants. Yet the rabbinate, one arm of the state, increasingly treats American Jews as doubtful cases: not Jewish until proved so.

    More than any other issue, the question of Who is a Jew? has repeatedly roiled relations between Israel and American Jewry. Psychologically, it is an argument over who belongs to the family. In the past, the casus belli was conversion: Would the Law of Return, which grants automatic citizenship to any Jew coming to Israel, apply to those converted to Judaism by non-Orthodox rabbis? Now, as Sharon’s experience indicates, the status of Jews by birth is in question. Equally important, the dividing line is no longer between Orthodox and non-Orthodox. The rabbinate’s handling of the issue has placed it on one side of an ideological fissure within Orthodox Judaism itself, between those concerned with making sure no stranger enters the gates and those who fear leaving sisters and brothers outside.

    The story reminds me of a friend of mine who–of Croatian parentage but born in Canada– upon her arrival in Croatia (she had decided to move there during the middle of the war in the 1990s) had gone to the local police station with the aim of registering her presence (at that time, all foreigners were required to report to police within 24 hours of their arrival).  When she took out her Canadian passport, a clerk at the Ministry of Internal Affairs asked her the names of her parents.  After my friend responded, the clerk refused to allow her to register as a foreigner and insisted that she take out Croatian citizenship on the spot.  When my friend insisted that she was a Canadian citizen, the clerk responded “your father is ours, your mother is ours, that makes you  one of us also.”


    My Introduction to Comparative Politics Syllabus

    Here is a link to my syllabus; I approach the teaching of comparative politics from a thematic perspective.  Rather than impose the study of specific countries and regions of the world on the students, I teach them topics and concepts and leave assignments, papers and other activities as instruments to allow students to study countries and societies that they find interesting.

    PLSC240-Spring 2008 Syllabus

    The Fall and Rise of Torture Across Time and Space

    Here’s the abstract from an interesting article* on the history of the use of torture by Christopher Einol. I think we’ll read this near the end of the semester. (The subject of the illustration is water-boarding (about which the current US Attorney General does not know whether it is torture or not) during the Spanish Inquisition.)

    water_torture.jpgTorture was formally abolished by European governments in the 19th century, and the actual practice of torture decreased as well during that period. In the 20th century, however, torture became much more common. None of the theories that explain the reduction of torture in the 19th century can explain its resurgence in the 20th. This article argues that the use of torture follows the same patterns in contemporary times as it has in earlier historical periods. Torture is most commonly used against people who are not full members of a society, such as slaves, foreigners, prisoners of war, and members of racial, ethnic, and religious outsider groups. Torture is used less often against citizens, and is only used in cases of extremely serious crimes, such as treason. Two general 20th-century historical trends have caused torture to become more common. First, an increase in the number and severity of wars has caused an increase of torture against enemy guerrillas and partisans, prisoners of war, and conquered civilian populations. Second, changes in the nature of sovereignty have caused an expansion in the definition of acts constituting treason.

    * CHRISTOPHER J. EINOLF, “The Fall and Rise of Torture: A Comparative
    and Historical Analysis”, Sociological Theory 25:2 June 2007. You should have access to the article if you are on campus.

    The USA’s Place in the World in 2016?

    I posted earlier some excerpts from Daniel Drezner’s article envisioning what a post-Bush administration American foreign policy may look like, In a similar vein, here are some snippets from a piece in the New York Times Magazine written by Parag Khanna* that try to predict the nature of US power and authority at the end of 2016. The article is entitled “Waving Goodbye to Hegemony.” Do you think that the United States will lose its hegemonic status by 2016? What about the challenges from an integrated Europe and a rising China? I encourage you to read the whole article. If we have time, we will read this at the end of the semester.

    But the distribution of power in the world has fundamentally altered over the two presidential terms of George W. Bush, both because of his policies and, more significant, despite them. Maybe the best way to understand how quickly history happens is to look just a bit ahead.

    It is 2016, and the Hillary Clinton or John McCain or Barack Obama administration is nearing the end of its second term. America has pulled out of Iraq but has about 20,000 troops in the independent state of Kurdistan, as well as warships anchored at Bahrain and an Air Force presence in Qatar. Afghanistan is stable; Iran is nuclear. China has absorbed Taiwan and is steadily increasing its naval presence around the Pacific Rim and, from the Pakistani port of Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea. The European Union has expanded to well over 30 members and has secure oil and gas flows from 27world3-450.jpgNorth Africa, Russia and the Caspian Sea, as well as substantial nuclear energy. America’s standing in the world remains in steady decline.

    Why? Weren’t we supposed to reconnect with the United Nations and reaffirm to the world that America can, and should, lead it to collective security and prosperity? Indeed, improvements to America’s image may or may not occur, but either way, they mean little. Condoleezza Rice has said America has no “permanent enemies,” but it has no permanent friends either. Many saw the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as the symbols of a global American imperialism; in fact, they were signs of imperial overstretch. Every expenditure has weakened America’s armed forces, and each assertion of power has awakened resistance in the form of terrorist networks, insurgent groups and “asymmetric” weapons like suicide bombers. America’s unipolar moment has inspired diplomatic and financial countermovements to block American bullying and construct an alternate world order. That new global order has arrived, and there is precious little Clinton or McCain or Obama could do to resist its growth.

    Remember that when I post snippets from articles, that in no way suggests that I agree with what the author is saying. I alert you to them mostly because they introduce or mention concepts, theories and ideas that we discuss in class and also to show you get you to think critically about claims and assertions made by the author(s). To which theory of international relations do you think the author is an adherent? Why? What evidence in this article can you find to support your assertion?

    *Parag Khanna is a senior research fellow in the American Strategy Program of the New America Foundation. This essay is adapted from his book, “The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order,” to be published by Random House in March.