Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Democracy


The Third Gate in Topkapı Palace, İstanbul, Turkey.
Students taking PLS 405 (Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Democracy) should seek to study recent history’s “wave” of democratization, which has birthed an intensifying ethnic awareness, strong feelings of nationalism, and (at times) bloody conflict. What are the major interpretations of the courses and prospects for these phenomena? How do ethnicity and nationalism affect democracy, human rights, and the international system? Can multi-nation states such as Russia and Nigeria survive as democracies? And, if so, how?
After discussing theories of ethnic identity, causes of ethnic conflict, and modes of international mediation, this course considers trends in major regions and uses several case studies, including Russia, Nigeria, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and others.

Required Text

There is but one required text for this course. There are, however, several additional readings that you will need to locate and read for the appropriate times during course.
  • Taras, Raymond C. and Rajat Ganguly. 2007. Understanding Ethnic Conflict: The International Dimension, update ed., 3rd ed. New York: Pearson-Longman. (ISBN: 0-205-58600-7)
The textbook is divided into two parts. The first part lays out the theories of ethnic conflict. The second part applies these theories to several case studies. The course is likewise divided into two parts. The first part discusses the theories and case studies in the book. The second part has you investigate and report on a case study of your own, different from one in the text.
This investigation will lead to two products: a presentation and a paper. The first product will be a presentation of your findings for the class. This presentation should cover the history of the conflict, the positions held by each of the sides (both ideological and territorial), prognosis for an end to the conflict, and your own assessment of appropriate steps to take to resolve the issue.
The second product will be a paper that will be shared with the entire class. While the presentation will necessarily cover only the important points and will briefly provide the history of the conflict, the paper will give a more in-depth history and analysis. As such, it will be very important for the rest of the class to read your product. More information on the paper can be found on this website.