Divided societies

Divided societies

Week 12

Learning objectives:

  1. Differentiate between ethnic and civic nationalism
  2. understand the role of identity in politics
  3. Understand the modernism, primordialism, and political entrepreneurship as approaches to the study of identity politics
  4. Identify the concept of identity politics

Opportunity – Bruce Jones, Jane’s Defence Correspondent

Class coordinators

Team 2 (tbc)


In a way we are returning now to the beginning of the course, where we addressed socialization and identity as they impact on ideologies. Nationalism and ethnic identity are powerful political forces that are often mobilized by leaders in the pursuit of power. “Ethnic entrepreneurs” have often been blamed for the fratricidal violence that has erupted periodically in places like the Balkans and eastern Ukraine. Another perspective, however is that the tight “bonding social capital” of identity serves to protect people from the vicissitudes of the international economy, or states that impinge on their physical and emotional-cultural well-being. Nationalism, ethnicity and identity politics may be antidotes to the economic rationality of market liberalism and the Washington consensus, which erode peoples’ capacity to support families and manage their lives.

A state is a structural and legal construct defined in the final analysis by recognition of others, while a nation is a social and cultural phenomenon, defined primarily by the perceptions and beliefs of those adhering to it. Thus, it is not absurd to speak of the “leafs nation”. Nations can exist without states, and states can exist without corresponding nations, although there are frequently political efforts to force them to coincide, as we saw in our discussion of the evolution of the state (week 7).

The concept of ethnicity and ethnic group is used in political science, sociology, anthropology and psychology in a variety of different ways. In the SSHRC-sponsored collaborative research project on ethnicity and democratic governance, ethnicity was never clearly defined, but most scholars used it to refer to a variety of characteristics – some innate and individualized (like phenotype), some learned and collective (like language and culture). Ethnicity can be construed as part of a field of innate and acquired characteristics of individuals and groups, which culminate in collective identities that might be mobilized for political purposes, and which change in response to political and economic pressures. [link to ethnicity scheme from EDG]


We will consider three alternative explanations of ethnic politics and ethnic nationalism: modernism, primordialism, and political entrepreneurship.

Learning objectives

  • Differentiate between ethnic and civic nationalism
  • Understand the role of identity in politics
  • Understand the modernism, primordialism, and political entrepreneurship as approaches to the study of identity politics
  • Identify the concept of identity politics

Required readings

Tremblay, ch.15
Scott, ch.6

Optional Reading

[chapters from Almond and Verba, Calamari, etc – check Poe320 notes and presentations]
Tilly, Politics of Collective Violence, chapter 2
EDG papers
Coletta and Cullen, Violent transformation of social capital

Berti, B. (2013). Armed political organizations: From conflict to integration. JHU Press. Introduction


In preparation for the seminar, we will divide into two groups: ethnic entrepreneurs who will plan to initiate secession on the basis of identity, and civic nationalists who will attempt to prevent the mobilization of ethnic differences. You will draw on the categories of violence identified by Tilly (2003)

Self-Assessment Questions

  1. What is the difference between ethnic and civic nationalism? As bonding capital, which might be serve small groups better in a crisis? Is one more likely to lead to intergroup violence than the other? Why?
  2. How important is collective identity as a source of political behaviour? What pressures determine the relative importance of different sources of collective identity?
  3. How do poliical entrepreneurs mobilize identity, and what tools are available to the state to resist them?


Our seminar will focus on the assignment, and on self-assessment question 3.



Weekly activities can be adjusted by class coordinators in consultation with the professor
Week 5 checklist of material

[1] Introduction from class coordinator – time allocation
[2] Current events of political significance (domestic, international) [60s]
[3] Review/amend focus of learning objectives [5D]
[4] Key terms [5D, GLI]
[5] Mapping the Political Landscape [5D, GLI]
[6] External resources [class coordinator]
[7] Exam questions [5D, GLI]
[8] Looking ahead: next week’s class coordinator introduces (last 15 minutes)

Next up

Exam review