FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Friday, February 7, 2014

More than words: An Argument for Primordialism

Below is a short paper I wrote examining the origins of nations and ethnic conflict.  The first paragraph is below and the entire paper is embedded afterwards.  My complete collection of grad school notes and paper can be found here.

More than words: An Argument for Primordialism

                Ethnic conflict is responsible for a countless number of deaths throughout history.
Records of these conflicts span as far back as biblical times in the book of Genesis when God
gave the Jewish leader Jacob the name Israel, telling him, “a nation and a company of nations
shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.” Much of the remainder of the Old Testament is the bloody story of this nationalist struggle told through the guise of
ethnic conflict. This intersection of nations and ethnicity continues to be one rife with conflict
today. Academics have devoted entire careers to the study of the origins of nations, producing
an expansive array of explanations from primordialist to constructivist. Which school best
explains where nations come from? Does one theoretical approach provide better insight into the
base origins of ethnic conflict? In this essay I argue that while some schools may have limited
utility, only primordialism offers a comprehensive explanation for the origin of nations and their
associated inherent ethnic conflict. Understanding primordialism can help prevent future ethnic
conflicts through the identification of common mobilizing catalysts. I begin by discussing the
definitions of nations, nationalism, ethnicity and ethnic conflict. I then provide a brief analysis
of the prominent theoretical schools. Finally, I closely examine primordialism, in particular
showing its utility in identifying the origins of ethnic conflict.


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