The international relations of ethnic conflict
Long a focus of scholarly interest in the fields of history, sociology and anthropology, ethnic confiict1 has only recently gained the sustained attention of international relations scholars as a phenomenon with major implications for world politics. In political science, the study of ethnic conflict was generally believed to be the province of regional scholars who focus on the domestic politics of a particular country or comparativists who specialize in examining the political systems of two or more states.2 Indeed, research on the international relations of ethnic conflict is still in its infancy.3 Of course, the international features of ethnic conflict are far from new, even if the interest it holds for international relations scholars is. During the Cold War, the fixation on ideological "proxy wars" between the United States and USSR distracted scholars from other sources of intrastate violence as well as the effects that these conflicts had on the international system. As events unfolded in the Balkans and Africa's Great Lakes Region in the 1990s, scholarly attention focused increasingly on intrastate conflicts and their infiuence on the stability of the region and the world writ large. It was becoming clear that ethnic conflicts were not isolated events and had ramifications well beyond the locations in which they were fought. Indeed, it is nearly impossible to draw a line between comparative politics and international relations in this area since ethnic conflict often fuses domestic and international processes, as in the cases of secession (the creation of new states from the fragments of old ones) and irredentism (the merging of territories across state boundaries). In light of the complexity of intergroup, interstate, and group-state relations, this chapter seeks to map the international relations of ethnic conflict more generally. We consider a conflict "ethnic" when its principals are defined according to markers that are perceived to be inherited, such as race, religion, or language. Ethnic conflicts and civil wars are overlapping phenomena in that some ethnic conflicts are civil wars, and many civil wars are ethnic conflicts. Nevertheless, they are distinct categories.4 Protests, riots, and repression are forms of ethnic conflict, but we would not consider them civil wars. Likewise, civil wars need not be ethnically defined, as can be seen in the war in Vietnam, the U.S. Civil War, and so on. We limit the scope of this chapter to the international relations of ethnic conflict, as this still leaves us much ground to cover. There is no single overarching question in this subdfield. This stands in contrast to other research programs such as the causes of the democratic peace. Nevertheless, the work in this area can be broken down into three distinct sets of concerns: Is ethnic conflict contagious? How do ethnic conflicts in one place affect ethnic politics elsewhere? How do dispersed ethnic groups or diasporas influence ethnic strife? Do diasporas always exacerbate ethnic conflicts? What effects do neighboring states, international organizations, and changes in the world system have on ethnic conflict? Our chapter is organized around these themes. First, we consider the effects that ethnic conflicts have on the larger ethnopolitical landscape. These include direct effects, where one conflict triggers another by crossing an internal or international boundary (also known as spillover or contagion), and indirect effects, where a conflict in one place inspires a second conflict in another region or state (also known as diffusion or demonstration effects). Second, we investigate the impact of diaspora communities on their homelands and the foreign policies of their host states. Third, we examine how outside actors influence the course of ethnic conflicts at the domestic level. At the end of each section, we assess the questions that have been addressed in each debate and identify issues that require further examination. We conclude the chapter by suggesting directions for future research.
Saideman, S.M, & Jenne, E.K. (Erin K.). (2009). The international relations of ethnic conflict. In Handbook of War Studies III: The Intrastate Dimension (pp. 260–279).