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Comments on the Design and Direction of the Comparative Study of Identity Conflicts Project Edward W. Walker University of California at Berkeley t is important to have a clear idea of the topic to be conceptualized, classified, catalogued, or explained. The topic conflicts in multiethnic societies is enormously broad. Every society (even Armenia) is multi- ethnic in some sense, while conflict is universal. Limiting the scope to violent ethnic conflict still presents problems, because it is by no means easy to distinguish ethnic from other kinds of conflict. Even with agree- ment on what ethnicity means, it is often difficult to decide whether a particular conflict is predominately ethnic or something else. For example, is the Chechen conflict ethnic, national, or religious? In what sense is the internal violence in Afghanistan ethnic? It makes sense to finesse this problem, at least in part, by identifying the topic as identity conflict. Not only does this make the problem of defining ethnicity or ethnic less important, but it also opens up some very important questions that would be missed if the topic were ethnic conflict, however defined. For example, why has conflict between ethnic groups been the most important line of political cleavage in Kyrgyzstan (Kyrgyz vs. Uzbeks, Kyrgyz vs. Tajiks), while regional/clan cleavages (Kulyabis vs. Garmis vs. Leninabadis) have been most important in Tajikistan? In Uzbekistan, in contrast, political opposition is mobilizing on the basis of religion (an Islamic Wahhabi opposition versus a more or less secular regime). Are there particular policies or contingent factors that account for these differences, or are structural factors more important? Another important question, and one of great importance to policy makers in the Soviet successor states today, is why in some cases for 93
94 CONFLICT AND RECONSTRUCTION IN MULTIETHNIC SOCIETIES example, Chechnya does what begins as a nationalist conflict or a war of national liberation, in which the primary mobilizing mythology of resis- tance is opposition to what is seen as imperial occupation, change into a conflict where religious mythologies of resistance become far more im- portant? Or why in Afghanistan did a war of national liberation that initially cut across ethnoreligious cleavages (Tajik-Pashtun, Shia-Sunni) become Islamized (Islamist parties had basically defeated the traditional- ist parties by the time the Soviets had withdrawn) and then, after 1992, become increasingly ethnicized (Pashtun versus Tajik)? One plausible hypothesis is that the era of romantic ethnonationalism has run its course in the former Soviet space and that ethnonationalism as an ideology is now almost as discredited as communism (and for that matter, liberalism). Militant Islam in the North Caucasus, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and elsewhere is seen by national authorities as the greatest threat to internal order because it provides the only remaining effective ideology of resistance for the opposition movements. And it may bring with it considerable material support from the outside, including train- ing, weapons, and funding, but also an elaborate and well-funded propa- ganda apparatus. Another important question we can ask: Why in some cases of con- flict is there spontaneous, decentralized, communal, nonorganized inter- ethnic violence (as in the attempts at ethnic cleansing by both sides in Abkhazia, or the pogroms in Azerbaijan against Armenians), while in other cases there is much less? In the Chechen conflict, for example, the Chechens never slaughtered Russian civilians in a concerted effort to drive them out of the republic. Is there something about the ethnic quality of the Chechen-Russian conflict that distinguishes it from the Abkhaz-Georgian or Armeno-Azeri conflicts? We should not assume that the motivations, interests, concerns, or fears that initiate a conflict are the same as those that sustain it or make it difficult or impossible to settle or both which is to say, particular conflicts may move from one box of a typology to an- other over time. It might make sense to begin discussing typology by distinguishing among types of cleavage ethnonational, religious, regional, clan, and others. Only then should there be differentiation among political objec- tives (secession, autonomy, regime change, and so forth). One should also include objectives that are less clearly political, particularly those associ- ated with more spontaneous forms of intercommunal violence, such as ethnic purification or cleansing (that is, simply driving those perceived as others out, at whatever cost) or changes in status, power, or wealth (you had the jobs, wealth, political power, housing, now we should which is apparently what was behind the Kyrgyz-Uzbek bloodletting in Osh in tune 1990, as well as the pogroms against the Meskhetian Turks in the
DESIGN OF THE COMPARATIVE STUDY OF IDENTITY CONFLICTS PROJECT 95 Ferghana Valley in tune 1989~. It is also worth noting that it may be extremely difficult to identify the political objectives of various parties to a conflict what, for example, are the political objectives of bin-Laden's al Qaeda network? When considering contextual variables, group cohesion is not neces- sarily a function of agreement or disagreement on goals or tactics, and neither is it very easy to assess. The Chechens are arguably extremely cohesive, in the sense they fight the Russians ferociously and effectively, but they also fight among themselves, and their resistance is highly de- centralized. Are they a cohesive group? Much the same can be said of the Pashtuns. Any list of case studies should include some "dogs that didn't bark"- for example, Tatarstan; Dagestan (more or less not barking); Karachaevo- Cherkessia; Adjaria; Akhalkalaki; the Lezgins, Talysh, and Gaguaz; or the Russians (or Russian speakers) in Kazakhstan or the Baltics. Adding "dogs that didn't bark" would mean starting the typology with a violent/non- violent outcome slicing. Also, it implies that it is possible to accurately distinguish "near violence" from "never close to violence." Finally, a list of policy tools should not be restricted to what external actors can do. There is a huge menu of options (all manipulable variables, but the people doing the manipulating are different) available to the readerships of the respective parties to a conflict. These options include symbolic acts, such as flattering the other side instead of insulting it, allowing the leaders of other parties to sit at the table as equals; particular policies, for example, preferential versus discriminatory treatment, par- ticularly in the field of language/education; and particular institutions (itself a vast topic for example, territorial or nonterritorial autonomy, the electoral system, presidential versus parliamentary systems and sub- types, ethnic set-asides, full-blown consociationism, gerrymandering to increase/decrease representation). It also makes sense to distinguish be- tween policy tools available to internal actors and those available to exter- nal actors.