Case Study 1: The Dark Side of the Partition of the Indian Subcontinent
In The Dark Side of Democracy, Mann discusses the role of ethnic cleansing in the construction of the modern nation-state, seeing ethnic cleansing and democracy as having an elective affinity to one another. Mann uses a series of case studies to support this argument, but cites India as one of his “counter-factual cases” – a situation where “serious ethnic tensions exist but seem to get successfully defused” except in a few instances where there has been escalation into mass murder. One such instance that Mann deals with in his book, albeit briefly, is the Partition of the Indian Subcontinent, which involved the mass exodus of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh populations across the border between the newly created states of India and Pakistan. Scholars including Breuilly and Neuberger have criticized the inadequate treatment of this case, regarded as one of the greatest ethnic cleansings of the twenty-first century, in Mann’s theoretical framework.
The Partition of 1947 was the bloodiest ethnic-religious cleansing ever seen in the subcontinent. While the exact figures are disputed, general consensus is that between 200,000 to 400,000 people were killed, thousands of women were raped, and perhaps 10 million people fled in both directions across the India-Pakistan border.
The case of multi-ethnic colonial societies being partitioned upon independence is remarkable in that it pits colonized nations against each other to fight for their post-independence territories. Under the political system imposed by the British, with its principle of exclusive majority rule, Indian minorities feared being overwhelmed by the majorities. The British as well as the respective political leadership of the Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities all participated in the creation of a communal discourse characterized by antagonism. Violence did not occur only as a consequence of partition, but was also a principal mechanism for creating the conditions for partition. (Brass, 2003)
The Muslim League party propounded its “two-nation theory”, which claimed that the religion of Indian Muslims was their primary and unifying identity, making them a separate nation from the Hindus and the rest, regardless of ethnicity and other commonalities. The two-nation theory was the foundation for the political campaign for Muslim self-determination and nation-statehood, leading to the creation of the Pakistani state. Muslims were the second most populous group in India, the Hindus being the majority. There was also a significant population of Sikhs in India, but they were mostly in the Punjab and there too lacked domination over a large enough area to form their own state. Therefore, the two-nation theory, as well as the dichotomous system of British democracy, divided the colonial society into two nations, reducing the multi-ethnic nature of the population to a binary polarity comprising the two most populous ethnoreligious groups: Hindus and Muslims. Essentially, the partition carried out by the British commission was along the lines of Muslim-majority areas and non-Muslim-majority areas.
As Mann puts it in the first of his eight theses, “murderous ethnic cleansing is a hazard of the age of democracy since amid multiethnicity the ideal of rule by the people began to entwine the demos with the dominant ethnos, generating organic conceptions of the nation and the state that encouraged the cleansing of minorities.” Violence during Partition was engineered to enforce the concentration of specific religious groups – either through their elimination or displacement – on opposite sides of the partition line as per the categories they belonged to.
However, the binary categorization, Muslim and non-Muslim, ignored the claims and aspirations of other significant interest groups, notably the Sikhs. The Punjab, because of its mixed-ethnic demographic, was divided between India and Pakistan. This region became the centre of the ethnic cleansing that took place during Partition. The Sikhs of Punjab favoured inclusion with India in order to have substantial control of local government in the areas where they were most densely populated. In the weeks preceding the decision of the arbitration commission (headed by a British Chairman, Sir Cyril Radcliffe), Sikh leaders made it clear that they would resort to violence if the award went against the interests of their community as they saw it. The partition that ultimately took place did not please these leaders, and they followed through on their threats. Brass (2003) writes: “Although not all the violence that occurred in the East Punjab can be attributed to the Sikhs, there is no doubt that a very large part of it was the result of deliberate actions on the part of Sikh gangs, instigated by their leaders, supported by some of the Sikh princely states and Sikh military, ex-military, and civilian officers, many of whom provided arms to the raiders. In the event, largely but not exclusively as a consequence of their efforts, the entire Muslim population of the eastern Punjab districts migrated to West Punjab and the entire Sikh and Hindu populations moved to East Punjab in the midst of widespread intimidation, terror, violence, abduction, rape, and murder.”
The three-way genocidal violence in Punjab was not ordered or committed by states, for there was no effective state at this time. But some local administrators from all three communities were involved, and so were local military formations. The larger scale violence was mostly mutual, barrelling into a cycle of “retributive genocide” fuelled by fear and rumour. The religious identity trumped all other identities. Even though Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs had lived together in pre-colonial times in the Indian subcontinent for centuries, “the political instigators who urged the killing … managed to persuade many otherwise peaceable people of both communities to turn into dedicated thugs. They were made to think of themselves only as Hindus or as Muslims … and absolutely nothing else: not Indians, not subcontinentals, not Asians, not as members of a shared human race.” (Sen, 2006)
Q: How is the colonial power – Britain – implicated in the mass ethnic cleansing that occurred during the partition of India? British forces would have been able to stop the violence, but concentrated on their withdrawal instead. Was it believed that violence/cleansing would help consolidate the newly established ethno-nationalist states?
Q: Mann claims that “the carnage [of Partition] resulted in relative ethnic peace, since almost all Hindus fled into India and since India settled into tolerance of its remaining Muslim minority” and it therefore does not fit into his model of the violence crossing over the line to murderous ethnic cleansing. However, does mass displacement and violence in order to homogenize two separate ethnos-based nation-states not count as ethnic cleansing by any definition? What about the Partition induces Mann to call it a counterfactual case?
Q: Does Mann’s framework underplay the “succession moment” as the critical juncture when murderous ethnic cleansing is most likely to occur? (In this case, the moment of the British leaving India and power being handed over to the respective new states.)
Q: Would it be more accurate to say that ethnic cleansing is the dark side of democratization rather than of democracy? Doesn’t the latter idea reduce “democracy” to simple majoritarian rule with only tyranny of the majority as a likely outcome rather than viable pluralism?
Brass, Paul. 2003. “The partition of India and retributive genocide in the Punjab, 1946-47: Means, methods, and purposes 1.” Journal of Genocide Research, 5:1, pp. 71-101.
Breuilly, John; Cesarani, David; Malesevic, Sinisa; Neuberger, Benyamin; and Mann, Michael. 2006. “Debate On Michael Mann’s The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing.” Nations and Nationalism, 12:13, pp. 389-411.
Copeland, Ian. 2002. “The Master and the Maharajas: The Sikh Princes and the East Punjab Massacres of 1947.” Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 657-704.
Mann, Michael. 2004. The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing. Cambridge University Press.
Riley, Dylan. 2007. “Democracy’s Graveyards?” New Left Review, No. 48, pp. 125–136.
Sen, Amartya. 2006. Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny. Norton and Company: New York.
Ther, Philipp, and Charlotte Kreutzmüller. 2014. The Dark Side of Nation-states: Ethnic Cleansing in Modern Europe. 1st ed. Berghahn Books.
Case Study 2: Sunni-Shia Divide in Iraq
Michael Mann’s theories of democratisation and national identity are easy to agree with because of the care he takes to nuance his argument, qualifying his opinions to the point that they are almost neutral. While it is useful in that the theories are widely applicable, in practical analysis his justifications can be ‘thin’. In the case of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, while many of Mann’s predicted patterns of identity formation are distinguishable, various dynamic factors imply that this correlation is a false positive. These inconsistencies can be expanded to many instances of Pan-Arabism, Pan-Islamism, and political Islam in the history of the modern Middle East, calling into question whether or not Mann’s theories are too static. Perhaps this makes the Middle East an ideal case to test Mann’s theories, because doing so requires so much filling in of gaps, not negating Mann but definitely turning him on his head. While the relationship between ethnic violence and state-formation is a critical addition to the study of nationalism, the idea that this produces democracy was decidedly disproven in Iraq, owing to a cultural context not considered by Mann.
The modern borders of Iraq are the consequences of ignorant post-Ottoman engineering at the hands of the West – the resulting state was roughly half Sunni, half Shia Muslim, with a sizable Kurdish minority and little in the way of national unity. A military coup overthrew an installed monarch in 1953, and Mann (1993) identifies these periods of transitional politics as fertile ground for identity. The end of colonial influence in Iraq was met with a resurgence of identification with an ancient Mesopotamian identity (promotion done primarily by the state), creating a historical tie between the people and a ‘nation’ they had arbitrarily been assigned to by the French and British. It is important to note that since Mesopotamian culture predates Arab culture, this tie was based on geographical continuity of the people alone. Both Sunni and Shia Arabs could take equal ownership of this identity, therefore negating the obvious tension that existed between the two, particularly with respect to politics. This coincided with the rise of Pan-Arabism, lending further legitimacy to identity claims in the Middle East. In 1958 the monarchy was toppled and then, in 1963, the Ba’ath party led a successful coup against the communist regime to become the ruling party. These events are simplified here because the important trend with respect to Mann and was the growing strength of the Ba’ath party, an Arab-Nationalist, Anti-Imperialist party that was dominated by Sunni Arabs. In the wake of the Ba’ath coup, Saddam Hussein rose to power and emphasised the authoritarian nature of Ba’athist policies. His presidency is arguably the period in which nationalist identity (for Sunnis) became strongest, not only because party membership was a requirement to work in government or serve in the military, but also because allegiance of elite families was reinforced through monetary gains and security. Saddam was known for secretly assassinating dissenting members of the party, so the threat of reprisal kept loyalty high.
The critical moment for Iraqi identity was the Iran-Iraq war, and this is the instance that most challenges Mann’s theory of a linear relationship between conflicting claims and conflict. A war that began over border disputes eventually became a proxy battle for Sunni versus Shia Islam, and what is significant is that it provided the long-subjugated Shia population in Iraq a new ally in the form of Iran and created a major threat to Iraqi unity. Given Mann’s theory that “The Danger Zone of murderous cleansing is reached when large movements claiming to represent two fairly old ethnic groups attempting to claim the same territory AND this claim seems to have substantial legitimacy and possibility of being implemented (2004)” it seems that a violent conflict between the Shia and Sunni in Iraq was nigh. However, what took place was instead large-scale ethnic cleansing of the Kurdish population in Northern Iraq in Operation Anfal, combined with a serious effort to court Shia sympathy in Iraq. Operation Anfal utilised many of the tools of ethnic cleansing that Mann claims would be used against a group with an equal but opposing claim to the current regime’s dominance. The Kurds, while always marginalised in Iraq, were largely Sunni and because of their status as a sub-state nationalism, with territorial claims that challenged many of the modern borders of the Levant, did not have a claim as strong as the Shia to rule Iraq or even to challenge the Ba’ath regime.
Obviously, the reasons for the lack of reprisal against the Shia are owed to various geopolitical factors in the region at the time, but what does this say about Mann’s theories of conflict? It is difficult to codify the transcendent influence of Islam within the context of Mann’s ideas of identity formation, particularly because that influence cannot be seen as being formed by the state. It is not instrumentalised by the powers that be, rather it is deferred to by them in the process of state-formation. Similarly, can Mann’s theory be used to explain the ethnic cleansing of the Kurdish people at this time? While many of Mann’s requirements for conflict were met in Iraq in the late 80’s, at the final moment events seem to break away from Mann’s timeline and a new enemy was selected.
Is the relationship between conflicting claims and eventual conflict always linear? How can we incorporate the socio-political factors that would negate conflict into Mann’s theory?
In Iraq, national identity was reinforced through authoritarian policies, what does that mean for the salience of the identity as applied to theories of nationalism?
Case Study 3: Nationalism in the Gulf States
It is a great disadvantage to the study of Nationalism that very little work has been done on the Gulf. Khaleeji (Gulf) nationalism is unique in its form; it does not adhere to many nationalist theories on state formation and national identity. What is most intriguing about the formation of Gulf States is not their relative ‘newness’, but that, from the limited sources available, it appears that distinctive national identity is strong despite there not existing a clearly defined agent in the ‘creation’ of nationalism. So, while Mann (1993) argues that the state takes a leading role in the formation of nationalism, Gulf States seem to act outside the parameter, and yet each retaining a undisputed national identity.
Gulf States do not have the same historical foundations as European states or even other Arab states. There was no national struggle for political sovereignty or independence, no bloody ethnic conflict, and no ‘national’ territorial claims (Patrick, 2009: 2). Nation-states within the Gulf did not emerge as a response to the ‘other’. Instead, state formation was a result of local tribal alliances with Britain (who was deemed their ‘protector’), and who later became state leaders/rulers (Patrick, 2009: 5). In this sense, there was no ‘ethnic’ or ‘cultural’ separation between the Gulf States; it was instead based on local rulers’ coastal control as decided upon through British “diplomatic relations” (Schwarz, 2011: 76). There was no pre-existing ‘state’ in the European-sense of the word; there existed no bureaucracy or political institution(s). And while one could argue tribal leader represented a version of a state, to do so, would ignore cultural and social differences.
Moreover, until oil became a source of revenue, territorial claims were not an occurrence. Tribal politics revolved around authority over people and not territory (Schwarz, 2011: 78). The majority of the population lived in the coast, and the hinterlands, which were largely uninhabitable, only become important after the discovery of oil (Schwarz, 2011: 80). Mobilisation of the masses was therefore not on the ‘states’ agenda; there was no need to create a collective cultural identity. Borders were instead established by imperial powers in the early 20th century, and any territorial disputes that occurred there after were solved between state representatives and the UK (the UK acted as ‘arbiter’) (Schwarz, 2011: 80). Therefore, territorial expansion and state formation was largely economical. The nation-state was formed not through ‘state’ guidance, but economic ‘development’, thus not in accordance with what Mann (1995: 47) argues. Yet, even after Gulf States were established, and leadership ‘appointed’, there was no active policy in place to creating a ‘nation’ or national identity. In fact, it has never been part of their politics (Patrick, 2009: 33). The emphasis on a common culture/national identity as a vital tool to the nation building process is seen as unnecessary in the Gulf, this correspondences with Mann’s (1995: 44) argument that culture is not a pivotal force in nationalism.
The reason for this remains unclear. The most common explanation to date is based on Rentierism. Oil revenue played an important role in state creation (Schwarz, 2011: 85). More importantly, it has allowed Gulf States to function as Rentier States. Rentierism is thought to be the driving force in not only state-making, but identity-making as well. Gulf countries do not rely on a labour force; they therefore have no responsibility to their citizens. While they provide free health care, education, and other services, it is a form of ‘appeasement’ in order to maintain their legitimacy. For this reason, citizenship is restricted, giving rising to what Mann (1995: 56) refers to as “integral nationalism”. The labour force does not have to be ‘local’, and is largely formed of expatriates ((Nga Longva: 114). National identity is therefore formed around the concept of ‘privilege’ or material benefits (Schwarz, 2011: 97). And while it is the state that restricts access to citizenship, most nationals in the Gulf agree with this policy (Nga Longva: 122). This however is only one interpretation of state identity in the Gulf. Mann (95: 46) would argue capitalism is transnational, and is therefore not responsible for creating a distinctive national civil society. So while capitalism may have created the state, it was not responsible for creating the ‘nation’. Thus, the question of why Gulf States have clear distinctive national identity when they all retain similar history, culture, religion and state economy remains unanswered. The literature on Khaleeji nationalism remains limited, and one could argue national identity within Gulf States is still forming.
Mann, M. (1993). The Sources of Social Power, Los Angeles: University of California
Mann, M. (1995) ‘A Political Theory of Nationalism and its Excesses’ in S. Periwal (ed.) Notions of Nationalism, Budapest, London and New York: Central European University, p44-64.
Nga Longva, A. (2005) ‘ Neither Autocracy Nor Democracy But Ethnocracy’ in P. Dresch & J. Piscatori (eds.) Monarchies and Nations: Globalisation and Identity in the Arab States of the Gulf, London and New York: I.B. Tauris
Schwarz, R. (2011). War and State Building in the Middle East, Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
Patrick, N. (2009) Nationalism in the Gulf States. Kuwait Programme on Development, Governance and Globalisation in the Gulf States, 5. London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.
Question: In the case of the Gulf, do you agree with Mann that nationalism was mediated by the State (perhaps indirectly)? Or was it largely a response to the fast-developing economy? Can we argue that nationalism forms involuntarily with the nation?
Case Study 4: China
Michael Mann (1993) argued nationalism has played three distinctive roles with the state in different countries: state-reinforcing, state-creating and state-subverting. This case study will illustrate how modern Chinese government taking advantage of state-reinforcing role of nationalism to serve their purpose (Unifying society, legitimating and consolidating the governance, attenuate dissatisfaction etc.).
Political trinity in the propaganda
The government of PRC (People’s Republic of China) has a long history of deploying nationalism as one of the key elements in their propaganda. Public campaigns aim to provoke nationalist sentiment of the mass were held constantly. As a result, a social norm was created that every decent Chinese should be patriotic, which means not only being loyal to the nation, but also to the state government and Communist Party of China. People who do not show their support to the nation, government and the party are judged as ‘traitors’.
The government deliberately position state government and the party closely beside the idea of nation in their political messages, the loyalty to nation is entwined with the loyalty to the state and the ruling party, for which I call a ‘political trinity’ was designed. From my point of view, the message of ‘political trinity’ reflects the government (and the party)’s attempt to establish a closer relationship between nation, state and the ruling party, in order to channeling the public’s nationalistic sentiments toward loyalty to the state, as a way to maintain a stable political system.
While this idea of political trinity can be hardly imagined outside the particular historical and social context of PRC. For example, it is probably very hard to persuade an European that being loyal to the government and the ruling party is part of what it means for being ‘patriotic’. Therefore, the historic roots and political agenda contributed to the formation of this political trinity will be explored, to explain how a close conceptual relationship between nation and state was established through history; and how Communist Party of China eveloped political theory to justify the close relationship between the party and the nation.
Historic root of nation-state relationship
In terms of geography, China is located to the south of Mongolian grassland, where nomadic groups of people with destructing military power inhabited e.g. Huns, Turks, Mongols. As a result, the ancient people lived in China were constantly under threat of foreign invasion.
The Great Wall was built as one of the attempts to defend foreign invaders. However, it took enormous manpower and resources to garrison the Great Wall and defend the nation’s northern border. In history, only a strong central state which had controlled over the whole nation had the ability to mobilize enough resources to defend itself. When the nation was separated into smaller kingdoms, foreign invasion happened frequently and these were dark times. What Chinese learnt from the history is, the very existence of nation depends on the state to protect it from being destructed by invaders. The state is the ultimate protector and incarnation of the nation. Taking into account that ancient China was unified into one single empire for most of the time in written history from 0 to 2000 AD, the boundary between the concepts of state and nation was blurred, which, made the argument ‘if your are loyal to your nation, you should also be loyal to the state’ plausible to most Chinese.
Three Represents：The relationship between the party and the nation
The Communist Party of China has made substantial efforts to justify the party is the representative of the nation. One most recent effort was made at late 1990s, the government of President Jiang Zemin developed a theory called Three Represents Theory, which stated:
‘A review of our Party’s 70-plus-year history elicits an important conclusion: our Party earned the people’s support during the historical periods of revolution, construction and reform because it always represented the requirements for developing China’s advanced productive forces, the orientation of China’s advanced culture and the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people. The Party also earned popular support because it fought tirelessly to realize the fundamental interests of the country and the people by formulating a correct line, principles and policies. Today, humanity once again stands at the beginning of a new century and a new millennium. How our Party can better effectuate the Three Represents under the new historical conditions is a major issue all Party comrades, especially high-ranking Party cadres, must consider deeply.’ (People’s daily, 2006)
Three Represents refer to the Communist Party of China is representative of 1. fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people. 2. the progressive course of China’s advanced culture and 3. advanced social productive forces. The theory attempts to legitimate the party’s ruling status of the nation by associating itself closely with people, culture and ‘productive power’, which reinforces the political message that the party is representative of the nation.
Jiang Zemin with Bill Clinton
Moreover, for the fact PRC has a single party government, Communist Party of China itself controls all the departments within the government, it is hard to distinguish the line between the party and the government. Associating nation, state government and the party together in political propaganda would help persuade patriotic people to be loyal to the government and the party, which is how the government takes advantage of the state-reinforcing function of nationalist sentiments of the public and uses it to serve its own purpose.
To what extent do you think nationalism is used by the ruling elites as a tool to control the common people, and any idea how to prevent governments from taking advantage of it?
Cartoonstock.com, (2015). Great Wall of China. [online] Available at: http://www.cartoonstock.com [Accessed 11 Nov. 2015].
Google.com, (2015). Google. [online] Available at: http://www.google.com [Accessed 11 Nov. 2015].
Mann, M. (1993). The Sources of Social Power, Los Angeles: University of California
People’s Daily, (2006). Three Represents. [online] Available at: http://english.cpc.people.com.cn/66739/4521344.html [Accessed 11 Nov. 2015].