How Enemies are Made

How Enemies are Made: Towards a Theory of Ethnic and Religious Conflict

Günther Schlee
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 206
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  • Book Info
    How Enemies are Made
    Book Description:

    In popular perception cultural differences or ethnic affiliation are factors that cause conflict or political fragmentation although this is not borne out by historical evidence. This book puts forward an alternative conflict theory. The author develops a decision theory which explains the conditions under which differing types of identification are preferred. Group identification is linked to competition for resources like water, territory, oil, political charges, or other advantages. Rivalry for resources can cause conflicts but it does not explain who takes whose side in a conflict situation. This book explores possibilities of reducing violent conflicts and ends with a case study, based on personal experience of the author, of conflict resolution.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-060-9
    Subjects: Anthropology, History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Part I Introduction
    • Chapter 1 Why We Need a New Conflict Theory
      (pp. 3-12)

      We expect science to provide insights we cannot gain from a mere everyday view on things.¹ A systematic conceptual understanding, a methodical process, and data gathered in some standardised fashion or at least intentionally and with a sense of purpose are supposed to sharpen our awareness of hidden connections. To differentiate between science and an everyday understanding does not usually pose problems for natural scientists. Simply, by concerning themselves with different scales of phenomena from the ones accessible to the human senses without technical support – for instance talking about molecules or galaxies – they mark their knowledge as clearly distinct from...

    • Chapter 2 The Question
      (pp. 13-20)

      One type of conflict theory turns its attention to the existence of contested resources.¹ It demonstrates that, behind high and noble war objectives like the implementation of human rights or the political liberation of a people, quite substantial quarrels about mineral resources or occupational niches or positions and salaries are often hidden. One can write books about conflicts and deal with different resources chapter by chapter: one chapter about wars over water, another one about wars over oil, etc. Klare (2001) wrote such a book and named itResource Wars. Here, without denying the importance of these resource-oriented, economically or...

    • Chapter 3 How This Volume is Organised
      (pp. 21-22)

      Chapter by chapter, this volume will attempt a formal description of options of identification in conflict situations, and suggest a decision theory that explains the conditions under which differing types of identifications are preferred (i.e., who takes whose side in a conflict). A systematic outline trying to structure the problem (‘A Decision Theory of Identification’, Chapter 4) will be followed by an action-theory-inspired look at the rhetoric of recruitment of allies (‘The Necessity for Strategies of Inclusion and Exclusion’, Chapter 5). This chapter proceeds from a simple model (the genocidal model, which could also be called ‘winner takes all’) to...

  6. Part II Theoretical Frame
    • Chapter 4 A Decision Theory of Identification
      (pp. 25-34)

      At the risk of over-formalisation, one can systematise the questions posed above in the form of a theoretical framework.¹ One would have to distinguish three interconnected domains or levels, A, B, and C.

      People identify themselves and others using criteria such as language, religion, descent, and other dimensions of identification. The identity concepts found in these different domains, for example ethnonyms, names of languages or religious communities, are not isolated words but form semantic fields. They are parts of taxonomies and defined by contrasts and equivalences with each other.

      Social identities cannot be made up at will, because they have...

    • Chapter 5 The Necessity for Strategies of Inclusion and Exclusion
      (pp. 35-42)

      According to Machiavelli (1975 [1531]: II, §8) there are two types of war.¹ One is fired by the ambitions of the ruler to dominate new areas, the other is fought by entire populations against other total populations when:

      a whole people, with all its families leaves a place, driven thence either by famine or by war, and sets out to look for a new home and a new country in which to live. In this case it does not, as in the previous case, merely govern these, but it takes possession of every single thing, and expels or kills the...

    • Chapter 6 The Conceptual Instruments of Exclusion and Inclusion: Social Categories and Their Overlapping Relations
      (pp. 43-52)

      In the following, the categories that are employed in strategies of inclusion and exclusion are to be examined. In the process, their often situational and manipulable character will become apparent, as well as the logic and plausibility of social categories and taxonomies which set limits to arbitrariness and manipulation. In the work of identification, i.e., in the appropriation, elaboration, and contestation of social identities, structure and action clash with one another. The fluid principle, action, bends the rigid principle, structure, or breaks on it. Often a process of mutual modification sets in: a wave breaks on the shore but a...

    • Chapter 7 Economics as Sociology – Sociology as Economics
      (pp. 53-54)

      According to Duesenberry (1960: 233), economics deals with how people make decisions, while it is the domain of sociology to explain why they have no decisions to make. Indeed,Homo oeconomicus, the admittedly simplified model of humanity used by economists, appears to be freer in his capacity to make decisions and is thus rather more appealing than the somewhat foolishHomo sociologicus, who in the process of socialisation fits into supra-individual units and ultimately meets given role expectations perfectly. However, our analysis of empirical reality should not be guided by such feelings of empathy; rather we must enquire how economic...

    • Chapter 8 Markets of Violence and the Freedom of Choice
      (pp. 55-60)

      Analysts with a sound dose of materialism tend to look first at the contested resources and the economic interests attached to them, when they try to understand a conflict.¹ I do not recommend anything else. Rather than replacing this perspective I want to complement it. Identification in conflict situations is in no way determined by the contested resources. The logic of identification may be the same, irrespective of whether the contested resource is oil, water, cattle, or land. Therefore explanations with an exclusive focus on resources and economic interests may fall short of the target, if they are meant to...

    • Chapter 9 Ethnic Emblems, Diacritical Features, Identity Markers – Some East African Examples
      (pp. 61-74)

      The term ‘emblem’ has sometimes been used as a synonym for ‘symbol’,² sometimes for something simpler than a symbol, or, if in the hierarchy of concepts ‘symbol’ has been used for a more inclusive category, for a simpler type of symbol. ‘By “symbols” we mean ... something more than signs. Unlike the latter which may be so, symbols are in principle never fully self-explanatory, self-sufficient or fully autonomous ... They both reveal and conceal, pointing towards, if not fully disclosing, a different order of reality and experience. Symbols are thus by definition mysterious’ (Lewis 1977: 1).

      This mysterious aspect of...

    • Chapter 10 Purity and Power in Islamic and Non-Islamic Societies and the Spectre of Fundamentalism
      (pp. 75-98)

      The preceding chapters have introduced a perspective which tries to link identifications of oneself and others to perceived aims and the pursuit of advantages. This chapter extends this perspective into the domain commonly called ‘religion’.¹ As an analytical concept, ‘religion’ has the disadvantage of not being a universal category. It is highly culture-bound. The word itself (– ‘being tied backwards to’) suggests a dualism between this world and another world, and a link between the two. In other words: it suggests the existence of a supernatural sphere (and thereby also nature) or a transcendental God (and thereby also a...

    • Chapter 11 Language and Ethnicity
      (pp. 99-104)

      Ethnicity is a form of collective identity, and thus belongs to the same class of phenomena as religious affiliation, lineage, clan, or class membership.¹ It is the awareness of belonging to an ethnic group, and the belief that others belong to other groups of this kind. Ethnic groups differ from other groups, like voluntary associations or age sets, by the following criteria: they comprise people of both genders and all ages, or, as Elwert (1989) puts it, entire families. Even where exogamy extends far beyond the nuclear family, ethnic groups comprise sufficient exogamous units to guarantee self-sufficiency in biological reproduction:...

  7. Part III Practical Frame
    • Chapter 12 Conflict Resolution: the Experience with the Somali Peace Process
      (pp. 107-148)

      This chapter is based on practical work as an ‘expert’ involved in a peace process.¹ It reflects the time of writing, which is 2003, with some additions in 2004 (see also Schlee 2003b, 2006a). Later updates are mostly found in footnotes. History can be continuously rewritten as new events occur, but I decided not to change the text too much. In October 2004 the peace conference described here elected a new president of Somalia, Abdullahi Yusuf, and a new government. Much of the scepticism found in my reports, on which this chapter is based, was justified by subsequent events: the...

    • Chapter 13 On Methods: How to be a Conflict Analyst
      (pp. 149-160)

      This chapter is drawn from a consultancy report. The consultancy was part of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology and GTZ International Services concerning the conflict resolution and reconciliation component of the Improvement of Farming Systems Project (IFSP), Bay and Bakool Region.

      The aim of the report was to carve out a role for a conflict analyst in an integrated multi-sector development project in a conflict-ridden area. As conflicts are not a separate sphere of life, conflict analysts do not work in isolation from people dealing with other aspects of life, like schooling, road...

    • Chapter 14 An Update from 2007: Reconsidering the Peace Process
      (pp. 161-170)

      This chapter serves a dual purpose. One is that it brings events (more or less) up to date. The race with history as it unrolls is a race scholarly books can rarely win. Due to the nature of scholarly work, slowly overcoming one’s own scepticism and then that of others in a peer-reviewing process, academic books are not put out fast. Therefore anyone who is really interested in the latest events should rather consult the daily press or the Internet. Ultimately, whatever I say about Somalia in this book will not be judged by its novelty on the level of...

  8. References
    (pp. 171-182)
  9. Index
    (pp. 183-194)