Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Religion

By Langan, John | Theological Studies, March 1995 | Go to article overview

Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Religion


Langan, John, Theological Studies


In the post-Cold War period, it is no longer the global, nuclear, ideological confrontation of the superpowers and their networks of alliances that dominates our thinking about issues of peace and political order. It is the conflicts of nationalities, of ethnic groups, of communities divided by historic struggles and parochial allegiances that have come to the center of the stage. The struggles of Croats and Serbs, of Armenians and Azeris, of Hutus and Tutsis, of Ulster Protestants and Catholics, of Palestinians and Israelis, of Tamils and Sinhalese are not struggles which are satisfactorily explained by the categories of Cold War thinking on either side, or which were eliminated or even fundamentally modified by the great international conflict that went on for over four decades.

William Pfaff speaks of the desire of the peoples in what had been Soviet-controlled Europe to "become free again to be themselves - which logically implied, of course, the possibility of their becoming again, as many of them had been in the past, not at all democratic, but authoritarian in government, intolerant of religious and ethnic difference, and aggressive towards their neighbors."(1) The grievances and fears of Quebecois in Canada, of Russians in Ukraine and Estonia and Kazakhstan, of Hungarians in Slovakia and Romania, of Albanians in Kosovo and Macedonia, of Catholics in Sudan and Ulster, of Kurds in Iraq and Turkey, of Zulus in South Africa, of Armenians in Turkey, of Turks in Germany, of Basques in Spain and France are not identical in shape or meaning to the grievances and fears of Marx's proletariat or of Mao's peasantry. The parties in these conflicts cross the class lines charted by Karl Marx and Max Weber; they are concerned with cultural issues and the shape of community even more than with economic processes and outcomes; they challenge political institutions and national boundaries rather than economic institutions and systems. They may indeed be related as oppressed and oppressors, but this relationship springs from histories of conquest and subjugation rather than from the forces and relations of production. In a contemporary world which largely acknowledges the validity of democratic ideals and the need for democratic practices, the crucial divide in most cases is the difference between majority and minority status, though it is, of course, possible for minorities to oppress majorities as was the case, for instance, in South Africa.

Ted Robert Gurr, of the University of Maryland, offers a useful mapping of the forms of ethnic conflict in the contemporary world in his 1994 presidential address to the International Studies Association. He divides them into three groups on the basis of their orientation to state power. The first is ethnonationalism, in which "proportionally large, regionally concentrated peoples" pursue independent statehood or extensive regional autonomy and have "exit" as their objective.(2) The wars following the collapse of Yugoslavia and the secessions of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia exemplify this pattern. The second is the struggle for indigenous rights, which are "the preoccupation of conquered descendants of original inhabitants" who aim at "autonomy" in order to protect their lands, resources, and culture "from the inroads of state-builders and developers."(3) The recent rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico fits this pattern. The third is the contention for power in which the players are "culturally distinct peoples, tribes, or clans in heterogeneous societies who are locked in rivalries about the distribution of or access to state power," and in which the players often have a regional base and may on some occasions opt to follow the strategy of ethnonationalism.(4) Examples of the third group are found mainly in Africa, but also in Afghanistan and Cambodia. Gurr remarks: "It is also evident that power contention was and is the source of much more severe conflicts than ethnonationalism or indigenous rights.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Religion
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.