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Race, Ethnicity, Indigenous Peoples and Politics

L03(b) - Borders, Ethnic Conflict, and Race

Date: Jun 4 | Time: 10:30am to 12:00pm | Location: SCRF 1024

Chair/Président/Présidente : Mariam Georgis (University of Alberta)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Mariam Georgis (University of Alberta)

Ethnic Conflict: Assessing the Causal Cleavages: Soham Das (University of Texas at Dallas)
Abstract: In recent decades, 64 percent of the civil wars have been fought on ethnic lines. However, not all ethnic groups are prone to violence. In this article, I try to explain why some ethnic groups are more prone to violence vis-à-vis others. Theoretically, through social constructivism and horizontal inequality, the study argues that socioeconomic class, religion, and language are the three broad cleavages that determine ethnic group behavior, and a combination of these cleavages develops a continuum of peaceful to violent politics. While doing so, the article elaborates the idea of overlapping versus cross-cutting cleavages of marginalization. The paper analyzes the combined effects of the cleavages of marginalization against ethnic groups, and the cleavages are studied not only singly, but also in groups of two, apart from a complete reinforcing of all the cleavages. I find that the reinforcing cleavages of discrimination increase both the occurrence and severity of the conflict. Additionally, the ethnic groups facing religious marginalization and economic disadvantage alone can also be prone to severe violence. The argument is empirically evaluated on a sample of 60 ethnic groups of the Indian subcontinents over the period of 1947-2013. The article finds the relative weight of few cleavages and a pattern of conflict occurrence in this region.


Imagining and Re-Imaging Nations… as Racial: Kate Korycki (Queen's University)
Abstract: In this work I use the example of the Poland to illuminate the constitutive elements of the recent turn to the populist right in global politics. I argue that one of the overlooked elements concerns the process in which the elites re-imagine nations in racial terms. First, I propose the concept of mnemonic capital, with which I explain the nostalgic longing for bucolic past permeating the right-populist appeals. Mnemonic capital refers to a politically productive symbolic resource that accrues to political players based on their turn to, and judgment of, the past. Second, I explain how right populist parties harness their mnemonic capital by ontologizing political differences. Ontologizing refers to a process, in which political distinction stops being a matter of contestable, programmatic positions, and it becomes a conflict of essentialized enemies. In other words, it is a process that reshapes democratic competitive give and take, into a field of zero-sum identitarian politics in which positions became fixed, by becoming as if racial. Third, I explore the connection between memory, politics and the continuing process of narrating the nation to show how they affect the notions of common belonging. In this work I do not so much trace the construction of races, bur look at the way nations are re-made, when they are imagined as racial.

Governing Through Emotion: The Discursive Framing of Dangerous Offenders in Canada: Michael Orsini (University of Ottawa), Linda Mussell (Queen's University)
Abstract: The criminal justice system is a theatre for the performance of emotion. Using the case of dangerous offender designation in Canada, this paper examines the emotional terrain and discursive frames that govern the constitution of offenders who received the “dangerous offender” (DO) designation. Focusing on three key emotions (remorse, forgiveness and disgust), we draw on four case studies involving individuals who went through the DO hearing process (Lance Blanchard, Leslie Black, Marlene Carter, Tara Desousa). Indigenous offenders are of particular focus in this paper, as they are highly over-represented among the prison population, including DOs, in Canada. Asking what role Indigeneity and other factors play in how the media discuss the emotional comportment of DOs, we are interested in the persistence of particular discursive frames, despite robust acknowledgement of the complexity of criminal behavior. Further, we discuss the counter-frames that have emerged in which other actors (e.g., non-profit organizations) seek to challenge or disrupt dominant understandings of what it is appropriate to feel. The expression of emotion, and its interpretation by others (e.g., judges, the media) can be critical in the outcome of cases, and may also motivate community mobilization and prompt policy change. Yet, emotion, and how it may be performed/interpreted differently according to identity (e.g., gender, Indigeneity) and ability (e.g., cognitive ability/mental illness), is not well understood or discussed in this context. Throughout the paper we illustrate who gets to emote, when, and how, as well as some of the silences of emotions (e.g., court actors).