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Manifesto of a Rationalist


Neera Chandhoke

NATION STATE BY ACCIDENT: THE POLITICISATION OF ETHNIC GROUPS AND THE ETHNICISATION OF POLITICS: BOSNIA, INDIA, PAKISTAN
By Carsten Wieland
2006, pp. 455, Rs. 850.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 5 May 2006

Yet another work to add to the overflowing ranks of studies of ethnicity, of nationalism, and of how nations are made and unmade. Yet another work which wonders whether the ethnic card is instrumentally employed by self-serving leaders who are in the business of pursuing power, or whether ethnic identity is a primordial sentiment which comes along with birth. Yet another work which seeks to pattern ‘Muslim’ nationalism and ethnicity. This work is a manifesto of a rationalist, who has little time and even less patience for ‘less civilized’ [my term] forms of politics. But it is precisely these forms of politics that have come to command the world. As Wieland points out, so called ethnic conflicts have claimed millions of lives after the end of the Cold War, more than 20,000 persons died in Bosnia alone between 1992 and 1995, and 800,000 died in Rwanda in the year 1994. More troublesome is the fact that if ethnicity undermines the state from below, [supra-national] terrorism attacks it from above. This phenomenon, which has led to countless deaths, mass graves, closures between communities, conflict, and violence, needs to be explained. Wieland’s explanation of the phenomenon goes in two directions. One, terrorism is ignited when communities have already been divided in the name of religion or in the name of language. Secondly, ethnic identities are the product of a convergence of circumstances. Quite what those circumstances are forms the main part of the book.   In the historical part of the explanation, the argument is buttressed by reference to ‘Muslim’ nation building that is the formation of Pakistan, the rise of Hindu nationalism in India and the phenomenon of Muslim nationalism in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Geographically the cases of Bosnia-Herzegovina, India, and Pakistan, admits Wieland are apart, yet they share many parallels. What these parallels are forms the focus of the work under review.   The broad argument is that spokespeople of ethnic groups address certain characteristics or identities of people with the aim of inciting them to group specific behaviour. This constitutes the politicization of ethnic groups. This behaviour changes both the political scenario and political outputs. This phenomenon is termed by the author the ethnicization of politics. In the first case, the ethnic group is a dependent variable which is transformed under the effect of independent variables. In the second case the group is an independent variable which is self-explanatory which determines political agendas. At first glance, the ...


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