Democracy in Ethnically Divided Societies

Dr. Steven J. Klein

Ben Gurion University and senior editor at Haaretz newspaper (2 credits)

The post-WWII era saw the creation of numerous new countries that did not fit the classic nation-state model, often comprising rival ethnic groups. These internal conflicts have presented challenges to the ruling elites when interested in establishing a democratic regime. Factors such as the perceived threat by or manageability of ethnic minorities have influenced the type of democracy pursued and the extent of democratic rights afforded to these minorities. Such experiments of forging the country’s ethnic character while maintaining a certain measure of democratic institutions have had mixed results, often contributing to grievances among minority groups and at times failing to prevent bloodshed.

 In this class, students will deepen their understanding of principles of ethnic conflict and conflict management theory, exploring the conditions for creating so-called ethnic democracies and maintaining their stability. They will also explore the repercussions of managing democracies in ethnically divided societies for interethnic relations and international politics. The class will examine case studies of such democracies, such as Sri Lanka, Israel, Malaysia and former states of the Soviet bloc. Students will have the opportunity to explore these case studies more deeply or other case studies through class presentations and a midterm project.

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