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Ethnic Conflict


Many of the most bloody and brutal scenes of violence since the end of the Cold War have been ethnic in character, a fact that seems to belie the possibility of a slow and steady march toward global political stability. The proliferation of such violence over the last 30 years has caused scholars and policy makers to more critically examine the sources and potential solutions to the problem of ethnic conflict. Despite much evidence to the contrary, commentators still frequently attribute the sources of such strife to ethnic diversity and the history of animosity between various ethnic communities. In this course, we will challenge these commonly held assumptions about the cause of ethnic violence and explore some possible solutions for preventing further conflicts or resolving existing ones. Looking at this problem from a more holistic perspective—which engages with the economic, cultural, and political motivations underlying ethnic violence—we will ask questions such as: What are some of the main sources behind political conflicts deemed “ethnic”? What is the role of the international community in managing ethnic conflicts? What is the effect of democratization on territorial integrity of the state and political conflict between ethnically divided communities? And what constitutional designs, state structures, and electoral systems are most compatible with ethnically divided societies? We will attempt to answer these questions by studying both theories of ethnic conflict and conflict management and case studies, including Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Russia, Georgia, Spain, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, India, and Ethiopia.