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  • CHAPTER - ONE

    SUB-REGIONAL ASSERTIONS A THEORITICAL PERSPECTIVE

  • SUB-REGIONAL ASSERTIONS A THEORITICAL PERSPECTIVE

    CHAPTER- 1 SUB--REGIONAL ASSERTIONS · A THEORITICAL PERSPECTIVE

    1

    Ethnic conflict is a significant reality of our time. Ethnicity as a form of a political

    behaviour continues to be a significant aspect of modern nation-state. The term

    ethnicity is encumbered by a plethora of meanings resulting in apparently

    opposing connotations. Thus a review of the term and its meanings is an

    essential precursor to our discussion.

    Ethnicity as a form of political concept has been primarily seen as opposed to

    the concept of 'Nationalism'. The term etymologically means, "pertaining to

    race or racial stock". Ethnic power largely focuses on safeguards of interests of

    dparticular group and does not necessarily lay a claim to 'territoriality'. Though

    there are nations, which are ethnic in origin, 1 the context for the study of

    ethnicity is only provided within the conceptual boundaries of modern nation-

    state. The modern nation state is an outcome of various conflicting forces, the

    seeds of which often sprout at the juncture of social oppression and political

    turmoil. A study of modern nation state thus provides us with a vantage point to

    understand the complexities surrounding ethnicity.

    1 A.D.Smith, The Ethnic Origins of Natioris, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1987.

  • SUB-REGIONAL ASSERTIONS A THEORITICAL PERSPECTIVE 2

    Nationalism in its various forms inhibits simplistic explanations and requires us to

    focus on three distinct, but related, facets of society- politics, economics and

    culture. We are especially interested in the nature of the polity (the state,

    principality, sub-region, etc.). and how it relates to the various fragments within a

    region. We are also interested in exploring the relationship between cultural ·

    identity and politics by taking specific cases into account.

    Culture is about identity and status in terms of birth, family, language, religion,

    and so on. Ethnicity and nationalism are usually considered to be more clearly

    related to culture than anything else, but most theories of nationalism seek to

    determine that particular relationship between politics, economics and culture

    which brings about the transition from ethnicity to nationalism.

    The discussion on the relationship between politics, economics and culture

    could be situated in time frame. Historically, some thinkers believe that the

    condition of nationalism grew out of period when the state was only a loose

    assembly of power centres. The economy was pre-industrialist and mainly

    agrarian. When the concept of 'nation' could be seen as in the form of

    ethnicity-as loyalty to clan, king, tribe etc. These thinkers trace the roots of

    modern 'nationalism' to the primordial loyalties. But the transition to the nation-

    state is altogether a different story. We can only reflect in hindsight about the

    possibilities of the nature of change that this pre-nation state society underwent.

  • SUB-REGIONAL ASSERTIONS A THEORITICAL PERSPECTIVE 3

    The transition from ethnicity to nationalism is most evident in the sphere of

    culture. Some theorists see this process as a fairly self-contained process. For

    them. nationalism develops from 'ethnicity' ·through the articulation of the idea

    of the 'nation' and the ideology of 'nationalism', and the rise of a national

    culture through printed language, literature, religion and education. etc.

    The case studies such as Kosal and Jharkhand, that constitute the tocus of our . work, are not stories of nationalism. Like most nationalism, they do not wart to

    secede from the existing 'nation' and form their independent and sovereign

    states. Yet, more often than not, the arguments that they use for popular

    mobilisation fall into a nationalist mould. This is another reason for which besides

    the notion of 'ethnicity' we have also taken up different explanations

    concerning nationalism for analysis in this chapter.

    There are two funda'mental but opposing ways in which scholars tend to

    understand and explain ethnic politics and nationalist mobilisation. First,

    according to some, ethnic politics arises in a society primarily because people

    are divided on ascriptive grounds. The 'natural' and irreconcilable differences

    among people, as this argument goes, create the fertile ground for ethnic

    mobilisation to take root. In the literature on nationalism and ethnicity, this

  • SUB-REGIONAL ASSERTIONS A THEORITICAL PERSPECTIVE 4

    position is usually defined as 'primordialist'. Often the hardcore nationalists tend

    to employ this argument to justify their politics and endow it with a degree of

    naturalness that it does not possess. 'Primordialist' argument, in spite of the

    power of its rhetoric, is deeply flawed on two counts. It fails to explain as to why

    in" spite of the ascriptive differences people do not always get mobilised along

    ethnic lines. In other words the relationship between the 'naturai markers' such

    as race, colour, language and so on and ethnic mobilisation is never direct and

    unmediated. The primordial argument fails to capture this. Second, the

    primordial argument can hardly explain the timing of an ethnic mobilisation and

    as a result can not explain the variations or changes that it goes through.

    Opposed to the 'primordialist' argument is another point of view that treats

    ethnic mobilisation as a product of historical circumstances and political

    conjunctures. Ethnic politics, like all other mobilisational forms, is not something

    natural but created by people under complex and contingent conditions.

    Unlike the previous argument, it can explain the rise as well as the decline of

    ethnic politics. It is this point of view that has contributed a great deal to our

    understanding of ethnicity and nationalism in recent times. With the help of

    sqme of its influential articulators such as Karl Deutsch, Michael Hechter, Gellner,

    Anthony Smith and Benedict Anderson we have tried to frame the problem of

    our work.

  • SUB-REGIONAL ASSERTIONS A THEORITICAL PERSPECTIVE 5

    Karl Deutsch's, Nationalism and Social Communication: An Inquiry into the

    Foundations of Nationality is a classic as far as the study of nationalism is

    concerned. In the words of Karl Deutsch, a people or nation is "community of

    social communication" based on a common culture.2 Deutsch was unusual in

    seeking to quantify and measure the elements of nationality, looking particularly

    at 'social communication' (common language and interpersonal

    communication of all kinds). A people or nation is defined by the

    'complementarity or relative effiCiency of communication among individuals.' 3

    Behind the reasoning of this theory was the then-fashionable systems theory'

    derived from cybernetics, with its measurement and use of 'messages' which

    sustain a system.

    Deutsch believes that nationalism is the product of 'modernisation'. The social

    mobilisation of the people and the growth of markets, industries, towns, and

    eventually of literacy and mass communication go simultaneously. The trends in

    this underlying process of social mobilisation could do much to decide whether

    existing national trends in particular countries would be continued or reversed.

    Deutsch, drew attention to the basis of the nation as being a pattern of

    transaction which marked it off from other nation, thus broadening the focus

    from language to all kinds of social and economic data.

    2 Kart W. Deutsch, Nationalism and Social Communication, An Inquiry into the Foundation of

    Nationality, Massachusetts, 1966.

  • SUB-REGIONAL ASSERTIONS A THEORITICAL PERSPECTIVE 6

    When one looks at how particular examples of nationalism are treated by

    Deutsch, one sees the difficulty of relating such data to political movements.

    Thus, while Deutsch correctly plots the decline of the Gaelic-speaking and

    agricultural population of Scotland, he entirely fails to relate this convincingly to

    Scottish nationalism, which was based on other considerations. Nevertheless, an

    analysis of communication networks in· Scotland, marking it off from England,

    would have been a good way to measure the functioning of the Scottish

    political system and its potentiality for nationalism.

    Michael Hechter' s Internal Colonialism~ The Celtic Fringe in British National

    Development is another landmark contribution to the study of nationalism,

    especially in the British context. Like Deutsch, he views that commonality will

    come from interaction and ethnic homogenisation.4

    Hechter, however, reacted against the diffusion theory, and posited 'internal

    colonialism' as an explanation for ethnic mobilisation. He maintained that

    modernisation has increased the contact among the ethnic groups within a

    state, but it has not necessarily brought about ethnic unity. This is because the

    inequalities between the regio