September 9, 2022

Today’s Agenda

1. Course Expectations/Assignments

2. Course Policies

3. Questions


Course Themes

Learning Objectives:

Be able to provide answers to these questions:

  • What is ethnicity/race?
  • Where do ethnic/racial groups come from?
  • Why does ethnic conflict occur?
  • Why does ethnic violence occur?

Learning Objectives:

Be able to use three kinds of explanations for these questions:

  • strategic/instrumental
  • psychological
  • structural

Course Expectations

Your grade

Item Number Fraction of Grade
Reading Responses 10 (10*2.5) 25%
Short Papers 3 (3*15) 45%
Final Assignment 1 30%

Reading Responses:

  • Do 10 out of 13 weeks, by Monday evening
  • On Canvas discussion board
  • Ask question about the reading and/or draw an insight/connection from the reading; respond to another student
  • Graded for effort: 100 you tried;, 70 if it shows minimal effort, 0 if nothing.
  • Average best 9 out of 10

Grading: Papers

\(\bullet\) TA: Viktoria Zlomanova

\(\bullet\) Rubrics

\(\bullet\) Validation

Assigned/Due Wednesdays

Grading: Capstone Assignment

  • Independent research on a case
  • “Guided” research paper: specific questions you need to answer

What you need to do:

\(\bullet\) Attend lecture:

  • in-class discussion/activities
  • slides are not enough
  • no recordings (except for 2 Zoom lectures)

\(\bullet\) Read

  • links to Week’s readings on “Modules” tab
  • links to reading response discussion forum

\(\bullet\) Canvas

What I will do

\(\bullet\) Slides

  • AFTER class.

\(\bullet\) Office Hours

  • Wednesdays or by appointment on Zoom

\(\bullet\) Speed

Course Policies

Late Assignments:

\(\bullet\) Scheduling Conflict

  • Need to know ASAP to get a concession

\(\bullet\) Arts Advising

  • may give retroactive concessions

\(\bullet\) Lateness

  • non-catastrophic deduction (0.5 points per day)

Grade Appeals:

letter to TA, 48 hours after, written argument

Grades can change \(\Updownarrow\)

Public Health

  • Masks not required, but not a terrible idea
  • Please don’t come if you feel ill; I will follow same protocol

Sensitive Material

  • A sort of “trigger” warning

Why ethnic conflict?

Why ethnic conflict?

Ancient Hatreds Thesis”

Contemporary ethnic conflicts are inevitable result of long-standing animosity and rivalry between distinct ethnic groups.

  • institutions, policies (other than totalitarian repression) cannot mitigate conflict

Ancient Hatreds

ancient hatred is intrinsic/latent…

“Appropriately, this tract of land is where the tectonic plates of Africa, Asia, and Europe—plates shouldering peoples and religions that have historically been at odds—happen to collide.”

“Here the ethnic hatreds released by the decline of the Ottoman Empire first exploded”

“the ardor of its hatreds — among Muslim, Orthodox, Catholic, and Jew; among Bulgar, Greek, Serb, and Turk — was abruptly, if temporarily, chilled by the advent of stern Communist regimes”

Ancient Hatreds

Why is hatred latent?

…because nationality/ethnicity is NATURAL

Ancient Hatreds

ethnicity is the product of nature, and people have a natural attachment to them:

“But, as Kemal suspected, Enver and the Young Turks underestimated the force of the many long-repressed nationalisms in the Balkans.”

“Like Macedonia, these other nations are waking up from a Communist stupor to embrace dreams of lost glory”

Ancient Hatreds

and the natural self-expression of the nation is through the nation-state:

“Each nation harbors the dream that its borders will revert to those it boasted when the ancient empire it once possessed was at the zenith of expansion.”

“What the Bulgarians and the Serbs have always demanded … is that with the retreat of the region’s longtime rulers, the Ottoman Turks, the frontiers recognized when they came in should be re-established, in spite of the lapse of five centuries.”

“While Serbia and Croatia are easily imaginable as nation-states Macedonia represents a political no-man’s land where Serbian, Albanian, Bulgarian, and Greek ambitions vie with one another and with a nascent Macedonian nationalist movement”

Ancient Hatreds

and because tendency to ethnicity is “natural”, most evident in “backward” places:

“Zagreb is an urbane, ethnically uniform community on the plain, while Bosnia is a morass of ethnically mixed villages in the mountains. Bosnia is rural, isolated, and full of suspicions and hatreds to a degree that the sophisticated Croats of Zagreb could barely imagine.”

“Bosnia did have one sophisticated urban center, however: Sarajevo, where Croats, Serbs, Muslims, and Jews had traditionally lived together in reasonable harmony. But the villages all around were full of savage hatreds”

Ancient Hatreds

Conflict emerges because groups have natural claims over the same places that are incompatible.

While education, modernization, or oppressive regimes might keep ethnic conflict at bay, eventually the “cauldron” boils over.


Ancient hatreds thesis relies on an essentialist conception of ethnicity:

membership in a descent-based group that

  • shares some essential similarity in culture, values, beliefs
  • that persists through time
  • that is inherited at birth
  • and is immutable/unchangable

e.g. “The Serbs”, “The Croats”, “The Bosnians” each have an essence, can be described as believing, thinking, doing as one

Essentialism belied

Yet, at the very same time, Kaplan…

  • names specific insurgent/ethnic nationalist organizations
  • describes efforts at education, propaganda, contested history
  • mentions the work of states to foment national attachments
  • describes circumstances of broad political upheaval


Essentialist conception of ethnicity is used by nationalist political actors.

In fact, Kaplan sounds like Serbian nationalists on why peaceful coexistence was not possible: “too much hatred, centuries-old hatreds.”

Ancient Hatreds a Strawman

This thesis more or less a strawman:

  • many of its premises (like essentialism) are wrong
  • over-predicts ethnic conflict
  • cannot explain timing of conflict, variation over time

Why engage with it?