Constructivist Theories of Ethnic Politics

By Kanchan Chandra | Go to book overview

11
Identity, Rationality, and Emotion
in the Processes of State Disintegration
and Reconstruction

ROGER PETERSEN

While I address both substantive and methodological issues in this chapter, my main focus is methodological. The central question is the following: How can we incorporate emotions into the analyses of political processes in which identities have become fluid?

Here, I use the process of state disintegration and reconstruction for illustration. In particular, I draw on the experience of Eastern Europe following the collapse of Communism. Today, more than twenty new states occupy the territories formerly held by the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia. In terms of identity issues, the most stunning outcome of the disintegration of these multi-ethnic entities is the emergence of relatively homogenous nationstates. In my view, this outcome attests to the historical stability of identity in Eastern Europe more than its fluidity. However, in several cases and regions the process did involve significant construction of identities. In some of these cases, emotions have played an undeniable role. The collapse of these states sometimes involved massive violence, ethnic status reversals, and the power of group prejudices. Bosnia witnessed massacres and ethnic cleansings; a core element of identity in the Baltic states rotates around Soviet deportations and killings; Albanian identity in Kosovo is shaped by Serbian discrimination and the forced mass exodus of 1999. There is hardly a single group in the region that does not feel a sense of victimhood. Powerful experiences have left a residue. These residues can be analyzed in terms of emotions.

This chapter builds upon the combinatorial framework introduced by Chandra and Boulet in Chapter 5 and the model found in Chapter 6, “A Baseline Model of Change in an Activated Ethnic Demography.” Both of these chapters are built

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