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Archive for April, 2009

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:

http://www.newtimes.org.rw/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=46&Itemid=85

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

http://allafrica.com/stories/200904080624.html

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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:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7987608.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_pictures/7988028.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7989360.stm

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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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The European University Institute’s Max Weber Programme has an eclectic collection of working papers.

Of interest to students of nationalism is a recent paper noting the ‘dilemma’ of nationalists within stateless nations: that is whether to pursue outright independence, autonomy or federalism:

Jaime Lluch (2009), ‘National Identity and Political Identity: Resolving the Stateless Nationalists’ Dilemma’, EUI Max Weber Programme Working Paper

Available:  http://cadmus.iue.it/dspace/bitstream/1814/10528/1/MWP_2009_02.pdf

The internal political tendencies making up national movements tend to bifurcate or, at times, trifurcate, into two or three basic nationalist orientations: independentist nationalism, autonomist nationalism, and federalist nationalism. Stateless nationalists therefore face a fundamental political dilemma. While all nationalists pursue nation-affirming and nation-building goals, they have three fundamental political identities to choose from. The general expectation is that a nationalist would seek to align her nation with a state, but in the contemporary world, we find many nationalists who do not seek their own state, and instead seek an autonomous special status or the status of a constituent unit within a federation. This article seeks to explain how nationalists go about resolving their fundamental political dilemma. Rejecting deterministic accounts of nationalism, this article argues that stateless nationalists are distinguished by having concentric political identities: they have a political identity that reflects their sense of national identity and belonging, and they have another that reflects their preferred political/constitutional orientation vis-à-vis the central state. The argument evinces the importance of political factors in explaining how stateless nations’ nationalists resolve their dilemma. My argument points us towards a revalorization of the primacy of political factors in understanding the origins of the contemporary internal variation in the political and constitutional orientation of stateless nations’ national movements. Nationalists adopt these various orientations as part of an overarching political strategy, in the course of performing a balancing act between economic, political, and cultural factors.

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Imagining Spain

Jan/Feb’s New Left Review carried a fascinating review, by Ronald Fraser, of Henry Kamen’s recent book Imagining Spain: Historical Myth and National Identity (Yale UP, 2008).

You can access the article at:

http://newleftreview.org.ezproxy.webfeat.lib.ed.ac.uk/?page=article&view=2768

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An excellent article in March’s Political Studies which unpicks and evaluates some of the reasons for the SNP breakthrough in Scotland in 2007 (and indeed for Labour’s relatively dismal performance). Details and abstract as follows:

Robert Johns, James Mitchell, David Denver and Charles Pattie, ‘Valence Politics in Scotland: Towards an Explanation of the 2007 Election’, Political Studies 57 (1), pp207-233

In this article we use evidence from the Scottish Election Study 2007 to build an explanation for the narrow SNP victory in the Holyrood election. The theoretical focus is on valence models of voting, which are increasingly important in Scotland following dealignment and ideological convergence in the party system, and as Scottish governments flex their executive muscle. Exploring the valence battleground reveals mixed but overall negative evaluations of Labour’s performance in government, and suggests advantages for the SNP on issue competence, leadership and party image. Modelling party choice at the individual level shows that key valence variables – performance evaluations, economic competence and party image – have strong and significant effects, unlike hitherto prominent factors like religion, class and national identity. Constitutional preferences are important too, but their effects suggest a further valence link: the SNP’s strong showing among voters seeking further devolution but opposed to independence is due in large part to its credentials as a battler for Scottish interests. In contrast, Labour’s stand against ‘more powers’ may have tarnished its own reputation on that score. We conclude that the SNP edged home by persuading enough voters that it had a positive agenda for governing Scotland within the current constitutional arrangements, and that it could deliver on that agenda.

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Recent research seeks to ‘move beyond’ the civic/ethnic dichotomy of understanding national identity. A recent contribution to this debate, using empirical evidence relating to several ethnic groups in Ukraine, proposes a fourfold typology. Details and abstract as follows:

Holley Hansen & Vicki Hesli, ‘National Identity: Civic, Ethnic, Hybrid, and Atomised Individuals’ , Europe-Asia Studies 61 (1), pp1-28

We challenge the civic-ethnic dichotomy drawn by previous authors and propose a four-category typology of identities based on out-group tolerance and in-group attachment. Drawing from work on national identity formation and nation-building, we test hypotheses about the processes that cause individuals to adopt one identity over others using survey data based on representative samples of five ethnic groups in Ukraine. We find that the effects of socialisation processes vary greatly depending upon ethnic group. Our results challenge some long-held assumptions about the potential destabilising effects of ‘ethnic’ identities and the degree to which ‘civic’ identities correspond to values and behaviours supportive of democracy.

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