Integration as Peacemaking

December 18, 2009

On the face of it Des Moines, Iowa appears incredibly homogenous; just a bunch of white Iowans going to and from work every day. Zoom in a little closer and the city’s diversity becomes apparent. Bosnians and other Eastern Europeans living near South East 14th; Sudanese and an enclave of Sub-Saharan African refugees scattered across town; African Americans concentrated in the Drake neighborhood; Latinos living on the east side. Almost no city in the world can claim to be totally homogenous; ours is a multicultural world. But even small towns are experiencing demographic changes. In Sioux Center, Iowa one of every four children in the elementary school system speaks Spanish as their first language. This in a town with a population of just over 6,500. Populations all across the world are grappling with how to best interact with people whose backgrounds are different– sometimes very different– from their own, and a globalized economy will only increase this level of interaction. Free trade agreements like NAFTA and pan-state groups like the EU ensure that the movement of peoples will continue almost unabated in the years to come. Even in 1971, a survey of states found that only twelve of the 132 generally recognized countries could be considered a nation-state. How to deal with this reality, then? One among many options is integration, a method which hopes to ease and manage ethnic tensions. In this paper I will examine the strengths and limits of such an approach, arguing that it is a useful tool, but certainly not a sufficient one.

The debate around integration concerns the matters of citizenship and belonging brought about by the ascendance of the nation-state. Since few countries in the world are the exclusive province of a single nationality, majority groups must find ways address the fact of people outside their nation sharing geographic space. In Europe, France and Germany have historically taken very different approaches to solving this problem. Rogers Brubaker calls France’s approach jus soli, and Germany’s is called jus sanguinis. In other words, France extends citizenship to all living within its borders, while Germany extends citizenship only to Germans. On the face of it, France’s strategy would appear to be the most equitable one available, but both are deeply flawed in practice.

Since the Revolutions of the 19th century, France’s governments have tried very hard to create a unified French culture for those living within the borders of the French state. The government expects those applying for citizenship to take on those “French” characteristics upon assuming the title of citoyen. It has run into problems in the post-colonial era, as so many other former powers have, in absorbing the influx of all those who were formerly under their sway in overseas territories. In one sense, it is ironic that the French government should require those trying to become citizens to accept “French” ways of living when the culture of Alsace-Lorraine is so demonstrably difference from the culture of Provence. All this makes it difficult to pin down just what “French” citizenship means. For an immigrant, or formerly colonized national living in France, the requirement must be bewildering. In response the French government enshrined a “right to difference” for ethnic groups in the 1980’s. It also began to allow dual citizenship, which had the unintended effect of making French citizenship less important to ethnic and immigrant communities.

One thing these efforts did not do is address the underlying causes of alienation felt by ethnic groups. Second generation nationals from North Africa came to identify themselves as Beurs not as French, a name they adopted for themselves in order to demonstrate their distance from the state setup. Because of the centralized nature of France, any reform attempts end up being “aimed directly against the state,” since any protest against the way citizenship is perceived and how it is achieved is also a protest against the nation. This raises the ire of right wing groups who protest that those who choose to live in France should be expected to conform to French ways of life. More recently, a French commission on national identity began to redefine assimilation as not giving up the previous identity, but choosing to willingly take on a French one on top of that. “Pluralism was subsumed under a particularistic nation identity.”

Germany’s case is slightly different. Post World War II the two Germany’s took differing paths to citizenship. West Germany maintained that anyone who was a cultural German had German citizenship, while East Germany had a territorial conception of citizenship. This proved to be a boon after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and helped to expedite the reunification of Germany. Unfortunately, during the intervening time West Germany also had to import large numbers of migrant workers, often from Turkey, who were initially only expected to be in Germany temporarily. These workers faced an extremely difficult task of acquiring citizenship. It was essentially impossible, since to be a German citizen one must be German. To be naturalized in Germany one must undergo a perceived change in nature, not merely legal status. Germany has traditionally resisted naturalizing people who insisted upon retaining their original citizenship.

In some cases integrationist policies have seen limited success in countries with minority conflict. In Belfast, the city council made concessionary moves to the Catholic population, allowing them hitherto prohibited access to the City Centre in 1993. Tensions were high at first, but as time has passed more and more residents of the city feel that the City Centre is neutral ground to be shared by all. Integrating the City Centre was a step in the long Northern Irish peace process which continues to this day. Recently the Inner East Forum met to discuss issues relevant to their area. A real estate development is being built nearby, and the construction stands to benefit the East Belfast community greatly. The members of the forum had discovered that the developer was planning on reneging on some promises that would have had great impact on the neighborhoods. Since the Inner East Forum is focused on the primarily Protestant Newtonards Road neighborhood, they began to coordinate a response to the builder’s plans with the nearby Short Strand groups, who represent Catholic neighborhoods, in order to more effectively oppose the changes. This could not have happened even ten years ago, but long years of persistent work at reconciliation has made this kind of communal integration possible.

Will Kymlicka is perhaps the most visible proponent of integration in academic circles today, and his approach is well worth noting. Kymlicka identifies two primary sources of diversity in modern states: the “national minorities” and immigrants. Kymlicka considers a “national minority” to be a group that previously governed its own affairs and is concentrated in a particular territorial location. As far as Kymlicka is concerned, immigrant groups should begin to integrate, while “minority nations” should be allowed to govern themselves. Immediately there are a few problems with this definition and the way that a state should respond to groups which fall under one category or the other. For one thing, it leaves off totally those groups which are migratory, like the Romani, the San, and the Bedouin. These groups have a general macro level concentration, but are not tied to any one piece of land and make few ownership claims of territory as such.

The definition also has difficulty accounting for the status of geographically dispersed but sedentary peoples, or groups with competing claims to territory. A glance at a demographic map of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire shows examples of both of these phenomena. Germans in the Empire are concentrated in the west, around Austria and what would become the Czech Republic, but significant enclaves of German population extend all the way to the easternmost edge of the Empire. When one superimposes a contemporary political map on these demographics it becomes clear that multiple countries would have to deal with significant German populations among their citizenry. It is difficult to say whether or not these German populations have any true historical claim to the territory, but it would be equally difficult to expect them to pack up and move back to areas of higher German concentration leaving the host countries with an ethnic dilemma. In the region of Bosnia and Croatia the problem of competing territorial claims emerges. Croats, Serbs, and Bosnians all mingle together in a complex quilt of ethnicity. These competing claims make the job of adjudicating ethnic claims by any ruling state exceedingly difficult.

Kymlicka does make good points on the nature of integration among “minority nations,” though. He quite rightly allows that every nation is different, thus the approach that a state should take to a particular nation must be tailored exclusively to that nation. For example, Cubans tend to see themselves as exiles taking up temporary residence in the United States, and as such they have not gone about integrating themselves into broader American life. Those Asians who fled from China to America during the first years of Mao’s rule saw themselves as immigrants, and have taken on the patterns of immigrant integration. Another example Kymlicka uses is that of African-Americans, who fit neither the immigrant pattern as a result of being forcibly introduced to the land nor national minority pattern and a result of being forbidden to recreate their ancestral cultural forms. As such black Americans see themselves–rightly– as eligible for full membership in the American state and nation, and some have suggested that following the pattern of immigrant integration is the best route to choose.

Here I wonder if societies run up against a problem of physicality. Nations are primarily self-defined in relation to other nations, but these national boundaries can also be porous. To take the American example, European immigrants have been able to integrate into broader American culture with relative ease because of perceived physical and cultural similarity. A member of a national minority or immigrant group who wishes to integrate and is not from Europe may face a more difficult challenge, however. Even if this person fully takes on the norms of broader culture, many will have trouble accepting his or her membership in broader society specifically because of physical otherness. This is where Kymlicka’s argument begins to break down, at least as far as the distinction between immigrants and national minorities is concerned. Furthermore, as is demonstrated by the German case, often immigrant groups simply become an imported nation, particularly when law and culture prevent their full integration.

Even if Kymlicka’s argument is not wholly convincing, it does at least point a way forward, and one that could be useful in certain situations. If the difficulties in distinguishing between immigrants and “minority nations” are worked out, there is still the matter of implementation of acceptable measures to bring about positive results. Sometimes agreements made in good faith do not work out the way they were intended, leading the parties to become disillusioned with the processes. Donald Horowitz outlines a few of the pitfalls possible during a peace process between ethnic groups:

The Incommensureables Pitfall occurs when one side appears to be gaining more than the other(s) from the agreements made.

The Firm Target Pitfall is the result of deferred action on an issue put off to a definite date. Sometimes the promised action still is untenable at that time, but pressure will be high to deliver on promises made. Horowitz notes that this pitfall “creates a promissory note on which members of the beneficiary groups will demand payment.”

The Frozen Quota Pitfall occurs when quotas on things such as government posts and investment dollars do not keep up with changing demographic realities.

These pitfalls need not be deal breakers when encountered, but they do pose a considerable challenge. One thing that those in the majority would do well to keep in mind while negotiating any sort of agreement is the typically urbanized nature of most immigrant populations, while national minorities tend to be geographically concentrated. The distinction is important, and will effect the way that groups interact with each other and approach negotiations. David Laitin points out that immigrant communities are much less likely to start out and out civil wars or contribute to violent civil unrest than what Kymlicka calls “national minorities.” Because most immigrant communities do not make claims to territory, it is difficult for them to mount effective insurgency campaigns and melt back into the countryside. In other words, immigrants are more or less permanent fixtures in the cityscape, and require adjustments by those in the majority along with themselves adjusting in order to prevent a permanent underclass from forming.

It is also important to note that demographics can be a driving factor in pushing through reform, but they are often noted belatedly. For example, Arab Israelis started to become a relevant force is Israeli politics as their numbers increased. Jewish Israelis could no longer ignore their power at the polls and had to start finding ways of including and integrating Arabs into the political process. Arabs naturally flexed their newfound enfranchisement and were able to win critical concessions from the government and the Jewish majority. This newfound power in Israeli politics came about after decades of total neglect as an electoral force by the Jewish majority, and was only made possible by their ability to vote in the first place. Palestinians, who have no such power, are much easier to ignore and fight since their votes don’t need to be courted. These two cases, inhabiting the same geographical sphere, show two possibilities for integration and peace making. On the one hand, a marginalized and oppressed population with the ability to vote was able to make its force known and enact changes; on the other hand, a disenfranchised minority is locked in a feedback loop of violence.

It is tempting to call those realities the choices facing countries with significant minority and immigrant populations, but the right to vote is not quite sufficient on its own. For immigrants, enfranchisement grants agency in the political sphere, allowing them to influence the policies governing them with a vote. But cynical vote gathering by political parties around election day does not do much to better the lot of immigrant communities and enter them into the broader society. Immigrant and minority outreach cannot be just an election day activity, and this is where melting pot ideals sometimes go awry. A melting pot requires give and take; all sides give something up in order to gain something more. No society can expect to interact with another and come out the other side unchanged, and majority groups in negotiation with immigrant communities should not expect to be conceded to at all times.

While granting a vote may be a significant step toward peace and reconciliation for immigrant communities, enfranchisement for national minorities can be a much trickier prospect. Oftentimes this sort of move leads not to integration with the state whole, but with desire for further segregation. Russia grants this autonomy to many of its ethnic minorities; in the United Kingdom, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are all granted broad autonomy from England; in Canada Quebec and Nunavut have autonomy from the rest of the country. Granting autonomy is an easy way of allowing national minorities to have an explicit say in how they are governed, and can go a long way towards redressing some historical wrongs. It is unclear how effective that will be in bringing about peace in areas of ethnic conflict, though. The Scots and Welsh have coexisted with the English in peace for centuries now, and autonomy there is more about picking out and preserving difference than bringing the groups closer together. Brendan O’Leary suggests a number of other options, none of which are perfect:

Grand Coalition Government: Parties representing each segment of society run the government in cooperation with each other. The danger to this is that parties end up being solely ethnically based rather than policy based, and further entrenches political difference.

Proportionality Rules: These prescribe ratios for public sector appointments, ensuring that minority voices are heard in areas of civil service, the judiciary, and the police. This solution needs to be monitored closely and adjusted in the face of changing demographic realities.

Constitutional Vetoes: Minority groups would have the ability to veto discriminatory policy to ensure that the majority could not unduly take advantage of them. In order for this to work, the country must have a working, independent judiciary and a government that is willing to abide by that judiciary’s rulings.

Obviously integrative policies are tenuous creatures, needing to work in concert with other policies in order to work properly. It remains to be seen what level of integration is desirable, as well. The cases of Scotland and Wales show that peaceful autonomy to preserve difference is indeed possible in multi-ethnic states, but in order for such events to be successful conditions should be stable. In situations where autonomy is not possible or desirable, then governments have several other options available to them, but these are also dependent upon many variables which can only be assured through good faith negotiation. Both state governments and the leadership of national minorities must be committed to peaceful coexistence in order for any policy to have any positive effect; otherwise any program put in place is no more than an empty form.


One Response to “Integration as Peacemaking”

  1. Evan said

    So Chris, it suddenly dawned on me that I am currently reading a book that you may find instructive as far as sources for your dissertation. Its called “Wir Wollen Deutsche Bleiben” (We Want to Stay German): The Story of the Volga Germans by George J. Walters. As you probably can deduce, its a narrative history of how the German immigrants (who Catherine invited to settle the area) came to the area along the Volga and how they fared in Russia. It may be a helpful case study of how Russia has historically treated the issue of integration. I don’t know, it could be helpful or it could just be a big bust, but I just thought I’d let you know.

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