Archive for April, 2009

Upcoming Seminar

Two of our blog contributors, Ross Bond and Michael Rosie, are presenting a seminar next week.

National Identities and Constitutional Change in the Post-Devolution UK: A Four Territories Comparison.

Should be interesting for those in the area.

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A recurrent feature of many conflicts around the world is the degree to which ethnicity and religion have become fused. Several posts on this blog have noted this in relation to Sri Lanka: Sinhalese/Buddhist versus Tamil/Hindu. However frequently when conflicts are labelled ‘religious’ their ethnic roots are obscured. The Russian Government deliberately sought to do this with the conflict Chechnya. The crisis in Pakistan is presented in a similar fashion: Westernized moderates are contrasted with reactionary Islamicists, with questions of ethnicity largely ignored. Yet ethnicity is playing a crucial role. The Taliban’s heartland lies in the Pashtun-dominated borderlands with Afghanistan: a 42 million population which sprawls across Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Taliban has been able to successfully fuse ethnic resentement with its fundamentalist religous agenda. The curious recent development is the way in which this largely Pashtun movement has been able to form an alliance withn ethnic Punjabis in the south of the country frustrated by the lack of land reform. It is notable that the Obama administration (in stark contrst to the previous administration) and ‘AfPak’ coordinator Richard Holbrooke are very much aware of these issues as evidenced by some recent US coverage:


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I was driving down from Mull this weekend and saw a British flag flying over a pub. My friends and I stopped to have lunch and started a conversation with the owner – a proud, die-hard Scottish nationalist if I’ve ever met one. So I had to ask… ‘Why the British flag and not the Scottish one?’ (being American I can usually get away with these things). He looked at me quietly for a minute before saying ‘Well, we want to make the English feel welcome, but not too welcome,’ winked at me, and walked away. This encounter made me think a bit about Scottish nationalism and tourism. Does starch Scottish nationalism discourage tourism? Surely not… Any thoughts?

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Is another’s ‘good friend’. The Chief Minister of Tamilnadu has recently described the leader of the LTTE in Sri Lanka (Prabhakaran) as ‘my good friend’ and argued that he is ‘not a terrorist’. This assertion comes despite the fact that India was one of the first countries to proscribe the LTTE as a terrorist organisation and lists Prabakharan as one of the prime accused for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. At play here are competing nationalisms and understandings of the nation. The Tamil CM is orienting himself towards a Tamil electorate which is currently animated by the events in Sri Lanka. At the national level though he is in alliance with the Congress Party that is led by … Rajiv’s widow. Nationalists and political parties seek strange bedfellows at times! More on this here: http://www.hindu.com/2009/04/22/stories/2009042254770800.htm

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Surprisingly little literature is readily available on Maltese nationalism (in its very different forms), so anyone not acquainted by the intriguing history of the islands could profitably begin with an excellent potted history in the latest Malta Today. The focus here is on the key role of the Catholic Church in Maltese politics, and its influence in the course of both Malta’s independence from the UK and its accession to the EU:


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The new issue of the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (Volume 35 Issue 5) is now out and has a special focus on Riots and Republicanism: The Autumn 2005 Urban Violence in France Revisited in International Perspective:

The 2005 Riots in France: The International Impact of Domestic Violence
Harlan Koff; Dominique Duprez

Autumn 2005: A Review of the Most Important Riot in the History of French Contemporary Society
Laurent Mucchielli

Urban Rioting as an Indicator of Crisis in the Integration Model for Ethnic Minority Youth in France
Dominique Duprez

Understanding ‘ La Contagion ’ :  Power, Exclusion and Urban Violence in France and the United States
Harlan Koff

Immigrant Youth and Urban Riots: A Comparison of France and Germany
Dietmar Loch

Different Systems, Similar Problems: The French Urban Riots from a Dutch Perspective
Han Entzinger

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Several interlinked articles in the new issue of Red Pepper on the conflict in Sri Lanka, available here:


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7th April 2009 marks the 15th anniversary of the beginning of the Rwandan genocide … some interesting and challenging interpretations are available online, such as those of Irwin Cotler, former Canadian attorney-general and expert on genocide prevention:


See also Gerald Kaplan’s sobering account of genocide denial:


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Fascinating and worrying events in Moldova, showing that in many places the aftershocks from the fall of Communism remain very real, have the potential to de-stabilise states and inter-state relations, and often take overtly nationalist forms. The situation in Trans-Dniester looks broadly similar to that in South Ossetia, with potential for escalation.

Some useful reports on the BBC:




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As the dust settles and the inquests begin into the G20 in London we can look back and reflect on the happenings of the past week. One of the really interesting things for me at such summits is the way in which police/protestor relations pan out. It seems clear that there has not been a global convergence of policing styles as suggested by some authors. Both police and protesters, seemingly, largely abide by a national template. See the following site for work that Michael and I have done on these questions: http://www.sociology.ed.ac.uk/current_research/g8_research

Looking through the coverage it is clear that the police were ‘heavy-handed’ at times. As they would doubtless note, however, their heavy-handedness (which may have contributed ot the tragic death of a protestor according to today’s Guardian) is very restrained compared to that of other forces. The package of the unarmed, friendly British Bobby is often far from the truth but it does serve to constrain the actions of officers.

Protestors likewise follow established repertoires of action. The set-piece march on the Saturday was a classic example of the British protest tradition though there were also examples of more radical voices and actions.

It was also interesting to see how the global leaders – for all their talk of consensus – had more than an eye on their home fronts.

It seems the ‘global crisis’ is also being nationalised – not just in terms of government bail-outs of specific banks, but also in terms of how blame is allocated and how governments react. There is interesting material on this in the latest issue of Economic and Political Weekly: http://epw.in/epw/user/userindex.jsp

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