Ethnic Conflict

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Human society has been profoundly shaped by the political geography of ethnic relations. While the term 'ethnicity' originates from ancient Greece, its political and spatial manifestations are central to the conflict and mass violence during the last two centuries. The evolution of ethnicity as a pervasive social marker and mobilizer of collective action cannot be fathomed without accounting for its intertwined spatial, material, and political dimensions. Contemporary forms of ethnicity have been shaped by three key political geographic dynamics - European colonialism, the rise of the nation-state, and recent waves of urbanization and globalization. European colonialism has introduced and institutionalized hierarchical 'racial' classifications, giving rise to long-standing patterns of racism and conflict. The nation-state has received its popular legitimacy from the principle of national self-determination, generally articulated in ethnic terms. At the same time, states continue to marginalize 'trapped' minorities, who fall outside the definition of 'the nation'. This structural conflict sets in motion complex patterns of integration, segregation, violence, and partition. More recently, accelerating globalization and urbanization have created new geographies of ethnicity, marked by the formation of urban ethno-classes, the emergence of widespread urban informalities, and 'urban apartheid'. While ethno-national conflicts continue to rage, the focus of ethnic spatialities is gradually urbanizing, with broadening struggles over the 'right to the city'.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of Human Geography
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 1-12
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9780080449104
ISBN (Print)9780080449111
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2009


  • Assimilation
  • Boundary
  • Diversity
  • Ethnicity
  • Ethno-class
  • Ethnocracy
  • Homeland
  • Immigration
  • Nation-state
  • Nationalism
  • Segregation
  • Space
  • Territory
  • Urbanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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