Ethnicity and Democratic Governance

Ethnicity and Democratic Governance

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Spoke 1

What are the causes of ethnic community formation, political mobilization, and conflict?

Coordinators: Bruce Berman and André Laliberté
Participants: Victor Armony, David Anderson, Jacques Bertrand, Alain Gagnon, Oded Haklai, Villia Jefremovas, David Last, Takyiwaa Manuh, Tariq Madood, Ayelet Shachar and Elke Winter

Here, we examine the sources and causes of ethno-cultural community formation, mobilization and conflict. We will build from the two dominant contemporary theoretical approaches, instrumentalism and social constructivism. Our research will centre on three central analytic foci that cover both the cultural and material dimensions of ethnic mobilization set within the broad context of particular nations’ and communities’ experience of the cultural, economic and political forces of modernity and globalization:

  • The cultural politics of ethnic development and identities, including analysis of the role of religious institutions, schools, mass media, political parties and popular culture; the role of the state as an agency of cultural definition and regulation; and, state-society relations and their impact on the development of ethnic communities and patterns of conflict. The development of the moral economy and political culture of ethnic communities will be a particular area of interest;
  • The political economy of ethnic differentiation, including patterns of labour migration and urbanization; internal class differentiation; the uneven regional distribution and development of natural resources; the uneven spatial and temporal development of industries and markets; and trade and investment flows both within and between nation-states in the context of contemporary globalization;
  • The politics of ethnic mobilization and conflict, including the reciprocal impact of cultural and economic differentiation, civil society and political institutions, both local and national.

These questions will be explored in terms of how they connect to the dynamic creation of ethnic communities, which are both internally and externally contested, and subject to change in both cultural and political definition. The research relating to this spoke provides essential background and context for the other three spokes of the program. Our working assumptions are:

  • That the socio-cultural development of ethnic communities is grounded in their particular experience of modernity and development, including, in the third world, colonialism and imperialism;
  • That the mobilization of ethnic and national communities for collective political action is importantly related to the institutional forms that different states adopt to respond to ethnic and cultural differences. In other words, while particular institutions are established and modified, in part as a response to ethnic/national factors, these institutions in turn (re)-shape ethnic and national identities in an ongoing feedback process.

Our Approach

To explore these issues we developed comparative research on ethnic development in both Western and non-Western societies, and in both indigenous and immigrant communities, through fieldwork involving both qualitative methods of ethnographic observation, interviews and documentary analysis both historical and contemporary.