Monday, September 1, 2008

Elite Manipulation Theory

Elite manipulation theory, explaining ethnic conflicts as elite driven clashes and controversies, is one of the most widespread approach to the study of nationalism and ethnic conflicts. Although being aware of the main deficiencies of the proposed approach, reseracher should critically reflect both – the theory, as well as empirical case, being contextualized in its frame, while trying to inter-relate them with one another. This helps to offer multidimensional and substantial analysis of various problems related with the issue of ethnic conflicts and ethnicity, being multidimensional and interdisciplinary problem in their origins and essence.
First and foremost the major tendency should be overcome in the analysis of ethnic conflicts, treating ethnic groups as internally homogenous, externally bounded groups, while the analysis of those political, social, cultural and psychological processes through which categories get invested with groupness should be grounded, as this new approach will help us not to “adopt categories of ethnopolitical practice, as our categories of social analysis”[1], thus get rid off unintentionally doubling or reinforcing the reification of ethnic groups in ethnopolitical practice with a reification of such groups in social analysis. On the other hand, this will be a step towards clearly differentiating between the masses and leaders, as in most cases the last serve to be the drivers of ethnic conflicts, rather the first.
The proposed new line of approach towards the study of ethnicity and ethnic conflict suggests us to look at the interrelation of subjective and objective factors, involved in process, being in close interrelations with each other. Exactly they make the complex web, under which conflicting transformation of processes are made possible and are still maintained. On the other hand, we should look at organizations and individuals more closely, as although organizations serve as protagonists of ethnic conflicts and violence, in reality conflict can be carried out spontaneously by individuals through different actions.
Dealing with the process of use and misuse, interpretation and misinterpretation of ethnicity, we should think about the stage of ethnic mobilization as a necessary phase for both – conflicting interpretation and transformation of developments. The main problem is to find explanation why ethnic mobilization takes place in particular regions and under what circumstances it is made possible. This leads us to differentiate various relevant actors involved in interaction and point to those territorial units and persons on spot – placed on particular positions – providing recourses for conflicting transformation of processes.
[1]Rogers Brubaker. Ethnicity without Groups. (Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England: Harvard University Press, 2004).

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