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Ethnicity and Nationalism: Theory and Comparison

Ethnicity and nationalism, interethnic conflicts, and secessionist movements have been major forces shaping the modern world and the structure and stability of contemporary states. In the closing decades of the twentieth century, such forces and movements emerged with new intensity. Drawing examples, from a wide variety of multiethnic situations around the world, with special emphasis on South Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union, the book presents a distinctive theory concerning the origins of ethnic identity and modern nationalism.

The theory is based on two focal arguments: one, that ethnicity and nationalism are not "givens" but are social and political constructions; and, two, that ethnicity and nationalism are modern phenomena inseparably connected with the activities of the modern centralizing state. The theory of elite competition is presented to show how both ethnicity and nationalism arise out of specific types of interactions between the leadership of centralizing states and elites from non-dominant ethnic groups, especially in the peripheries of those states. The book test this theory and discusses the various patterns of ethnic mobilization and nation-formation through case studies.

The book is divided into three parts. In Part I, the focus is on the formation, persistence and transformation of ethnic identities. This section starts with two theoretical essays and concludes with a case study of Muslim identiy in preindependence India. Part II focuses on the strains in relations between the central and state governments in Indian politics, especially after the death of Nehru. It contains an overview of center-state relations and two chapters on the Punjab crisis of the 1980s. In the concluding section, the arguments concerning the relationship between ethnic groups and the state are brought together in a theoretical chapter, a comparative chapter on India and the Soviet Union, and a critique of the influential consociational solution proposed for ethnic conflicts in deeply divided societies.

Presenting an original perspeticve on the major themes and arguments concerning ethnicity and nationalism, the book has been used, and continues to be used by scholars and teachers engaged in the fields of ethnicity and nationalism, politics, sociology and anthropology.