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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 2 .

Identity and Territorial Autonomy in Plural Societies
William Safran & Ramón Máiz (eds.)

London: Frank Cass, 2000
296 pp. Index. Pb.: GBP16.50; ISBN 07146-8083-4.

In most cases, the state and nation are not congruent. The management of different conceptions and obligations of public life - be they economic, educational, linguistic and political - is thus a perennial challenge. This volume considers this in a variety of contexts. It highlights the evolution of national identity and citizenship, making ever more complex and sensitive the processes and compromises inherent in organizing the institutions and values that are used in plural societies. The 12 chapters raise and address such issues through both theoretical and case study analysis. Spanish experiences receive most attention, although there are also chapters on Kosovo, South Asia, and British Columbia. On the theoretical side, Safran compares territorial and non-territorial approaches to autonomy and considers the reasons for different institutional and policy choices for different minority/majority identity challenges. He untangles the meanings - and sometimes misunderstandings - of 'autonomy' and identity, which are not necessarily territorially based: hence 'functional autonomy', when substantial minorities pursue their lives together in large cities through shared institutions, schools and associations, for example, ignored/left alone by other groups. Ramón Máiz examines the potential for managing autonomy issues through constitutional engineering, envisioning a federal arrangement that combines cultural pluralism and political unity.

Other chapters consider the relationship between local, national, and intermediate forms of government and administration (Luis Moreno), which discusses the impact of the information revolution, globalization, migration, and the development of transnationalism and supranational forces upon sovereignty. In the context of the EU, this leads to 'cosmopolitan localism': regions and nations can feel autonomous within the EU, without having to be preoccupied with independence from the 'dominant' identity of the state. This seems to work for Scotland, and less so for the Basque country.

Francesco Llera, who considers the latter case, outlines the competition between party politics and violence. In terms of possible solution - depending upon the context - an array of possibilities is forwarded through the area studies. Partition, dual citizenship, federalism, and consociational structures are amongst them. Shaheen Moaffar and James Scarritt's analysis of Africa questions the feasibility of territorial autonomy in Africa, because ethnicity is only one of many identities. Autonomy would lead to chaos - the creation of hundreds of unviable units, and always the potential for a minority within a minority to seek autonomy in turn. Yet as Caroline Hartzell and Donald Rothchild observe, a major cause of 'ethnic' conflict is the domination of society by a single ethnic group to the detriment of rival groups. This, collection, based upon a journal special issue, is a well edited piece that will be valuable for students of nationalism and identity, as well as the specific cases considered.

Edward Newman, United Nations University, Tokyo

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