Framing violence: nation- and state-building : Asian perspectives

Kreuzer, Peter ; Weiberg, Mirjam

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URL http://edoc.vifapol.de/opus/volltexte/2008/259/
Dokumentart: Bericht / Forschungsbericht / Abhandlung
Institut: HSFK-Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung
Schriftenreihe: PRIF reports
Bandnummer: 72
Sprache: Englisch
Erstellungsjahr: 2005
Publikationsdatum: 24.01.2008
SWD-Schlagwörter: Philippinen , Sri Lanka , Malaysia , Staat , Nation , Ethnische Identität
DDC-Sachgruppe: Politik
BK - Basisklassifikation: 89.22 (Nationalismus), 89.41 (Staat und einzelne Gruppierungen), 73.73 (Ethnische Identität)
Sondersammelgebiete: 3.6 Politik und Friedensforschung

Kurzfassung auf Englisch:

At the beginning of the 21st century, ethnic or racial conflicts proliferate in the world. As soon as some conflicts seem to be resolved, new ones break out. Many conflicts resurface each time some kind of path to peace seems to be forged. The conflicts between the Sri Lankan state and the Tamil Tigers, the conflict between the Philippines and the Muslim insurgents in Mindanao are but two prominent cases in point. Most of such cases are characterised by constant efforts at resolution, by intermittent negotiations, interspersed with renewed violence, and cycles of military escalation and de-escalation. Based on a comparison of three cases (the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Malaysia), we argue that, in order to understand the driving forces of inter-ethnic violence, it is vitally important to reflect on the development and uses of the politically salient collective identities as well as on their interplay in the debate and struggle over the definition of state and nation. Not only the way in which identities are delimitated is important, but their inner structure and content (values, norms and behavioural guidelines) are equally of prime importance, because the structure and content of identity provide the framework for the interpretation of the collective self and the structuring of its relationship with the meaningful other. We argue that the onset as well as the enduring quality of inter-ethnic violence in some cases as well as its absence or successful resolution in others are partly brought about by differences in the interpretations of community, leadership, state and nation, and the eventual handling of conflicts within these respective frames of reference. Knowledge of these schemes and their relationship with strategic conflict behaviour provides crucial links for devising sound strategies which may eventually enable a resolution acceptable to all contending parties. What is needed is a comparative look at the most important trajectories of the national histories in multi-ethnic countries, not only with respect to the sequence of events, but, in particular, with respect to the “subjective” driving-forces, which shape the minds of the actors and their views on the nature of the nation and state to be; particularly the interplay between various forms of nationalism, nation and state on the one hand and different understandings of democracy and democratic practice on the other hand. As in many multi-ethnic countries the majority of the people perceive politics in ethnic terms; the idea of orthodox nation-building with its implications of emotional bonding at the national level runs the risk of turning violent, as various groups may try to impose on the state and the “national identity” their own cultural features. In response, weak minorities may feel tempted to leave the emerging nation-state. When emotive bonding is understood in ethnic terms and the state perceived as a nation- state, the need for nation-building is often equated with conquering the nation-state and extending one’s own culture over the whole national realm – if necessary by subjugating or assimilating other cultural groups. The successful ‘nation’ (i.e. ethnic group) claims ownership of the state, its resources and the right to rule, because it transforms its collecII tive identity into the national identity. Its history, its traditions, its mores and religion become the foundation of the nation. State and imposed nation become co-terminous. Any such effort to impose one vision of the nation against others must end in violence: be it violent rebellion of the suppressed group, or state violence perpetrated by the hegemonial group in order to silence the opponents. The counter-model to both purely ethnic as well as civic state- and nation-building would be a pluralistic state which refrains from building an overarching nation. We discovered that, in both the ethnic (Sri Lanka) as well as the civic variant of nation-building (Philippines), the most crucial factor pushing ahead the processes of exclusion, assimilation and marginalisation proved to be the direct connex between state and nation, the drive to extend ones’ own nation to the periphery of the territorial state. This direct connex has not been established in the case of Malay(si)a. Here, different and seemingly incompatible concepts of nation were employed at the very same time. The concept of indigenous people legitimised the primacy of the Malays and later the other groups comprising the Bumiputera. A liberal concept of citizen guaranteed the political inclusion of the large immigrant communities. The concept of nation, as a political identity group, was applied to ethnically defined groups, which seemed natural for their members and therefore required no great effort of imagination. Whereas in the first two cases durable systems of inter-ethnic violence ensued, Malaysia remained violence-free. Our report points to the interplay of three “dimensions”: (1) the vagaries of colonial history as well as the concrete processes driving decolonisation, (2) the structural set-up of the late colonial states and the newly emerging sovereign nation-states (i.e. the institutional set-up of democracy/state-building) and, furthermore, (3) the processes of collective identity formation in the political sphere (“nation-building”), by which the elites of the new states gave meaning to the formal set-up they had either partly inherited from their colonial overlords or put into place on the foundations of the former colonial regime. Our study is historical in order to flesh out models of failure and success, which might be employed when putting together “recipes” for hedging against the fatal dynamics of inter-ethnic othering, antagonisation and escalation, spirals of violence and counterviolence in the 21st century. Based on our research, we provide the following dos and don’ts of nation- and statebuilding in multi-ethnic, and maybe even post-civil war societies: 1. Don’t aim at constructing a nation-state in which there is an equating between nation and state. The more abstract principle of civic nation might displace traditional identities and loyalties, without being able to replace them. 2. Try to incorporate all (minority) ethnic groups into the state in a way that gives them the opportunity to voice their concerns and influence decision-making. The system must not allow for the emergence of structural political losers. III 3. Try to induce a process in which all groups thrash out a common vision of the state, which means at least a vision of a common state. They should try to find a common understanding of the nation(s) and their relationship to the state. 4. If ethnic identities are salient, don’t aim at depoliticising them (because it hardly ever works), but try to reframe them into a structure, which allows for emotional attachment by the members of the various groups, for participatory interest-formation within the political organisations of the various ethnic groups, for the development of a kind of social contract on inter-ethnic accommodation and a mutual acceptance of each other’s basic interests. 5. Don’t focus on institutional design only. Institutional set-up is less important than institutional practice. A working democracy ought to be rooted in common practices and less in formal structures enforcing cooperation. 6. Post-conflict peace-building programmes should aim at safeguarding gains in community welfare for all ethnic groups. Concepts for development should be designed in a way that they depend on the cooperation of the various groups. 7. In order to maximise political legitimacy in the crucial phase of systemic transformation, abstain from installing new “modern” elites of our “Western” liking, but work with the elites deemed legitimate and accepted by the majority of the local people. 8. Don’t concentrate only on the elite(s). Peace as well as violence are locally grounded. Ethnic mobilisation and outbidding works only, when the people respond accordingly to the stimuli of the political firebrands. 9. State- and nation-building need our long-term support, as they are drawn-out processes spanning decades and not discrete events, which are completed after a few years. Therefore, do not tailor your support according to the sequencing of the international reporting on crises and catastrophes. 10. Try to induce learning at the elite level, so that the various groups and their leaders learn to accept and value the idea of an “ethnic veto”, by which ethnic groups can stop policies deemed to be contrary to their most basic needs and interests. Table of Contents 1. Introduction 1 2. Introducing a cultural research-perspective and two variants of nationalism 4 2.1 A cultural view on the interplay of nation- and state-building and ethnic violence 4


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