September 18, 2008
The crucial role of ethnicity, religion, and indigeneity in many conflicts around the world is widely acknowledged, yet very little research is available on how public institutions, including governmental and non-governmental organizations, categorize, assess and interpret the identities and interests of particular groups involved in conflicts. For example, public institutions may accept a claim for the accommodation of a cultural practice if they judge that this practice is central or authentic to a group's way of life, but how do institutions judge what is central or authentic to a way of life? How do such actions avoid freezing and essentializing group identities and in what ways do these judgements both intervene in the internal politics of a group and shape its future development? Similarly, how do public institutions make judgements that recognize truly ‘representative’ leaders, encourage their participation, and ensure that the full range of voices within the group is heard? And further, how do ethno-religious communities develop the particular organization, identities and claims that they address to public institutions?
This workshop will examine these difficult questions in relation to a series of cases and comparative analyses including, for example, how international organizations evaluate the impact of development projects on indigenous peoples, or determine ways in which to intervene to protect the security of a particular ethnic community, how foreign peacekeepers in such situations are given cultural sensitivity training, how national censuses decide to classify and count particular groups, how courts decide when a particular law or regulation imposes harm or burden on religious minorities, and how public schools deal with the issues of integration and reasonable accommodation.