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date: 16 November 2019

Summary and Keywords

In southeast Asia, ethnic tensions and conflicts stem in large part from economic or power rivalries rather than cultural differences. The political relationships between ethnic identities and nation-state identities in southeast Asia can be analyzed based on three different frameworks, each offering important insights into the region’s complexities and variations. The first is the plural society approach, which points to cultural pluralism as the source of political tensions in southeast Asia. The implication of this view is that ethnic violence will tend to take the form of rioting between people of different cultures as they compete for state resources or power. The second framework is a state legitimacy approach, which argues that the national identity strategies adopted by the state elites are the key factor influencing the structure of ethnic politics. In this context, the strategy of state legitimation is employed to promote the migration of highland ethnic minorities out of their ancestral homeland areas so as to facilitate their economic development, but also their assimilation into the ethnic core. The third framework is a globalized disruption approach, which suggests that globalization has three negative impacts relating to economic disparities, the problematical politics of democratization, and fears of international or domestic terrorism. It can be said that the politics of ethnicity and nationalism in southeast Asia arises from the enhanced appeal of ethnic and national stereotypes for people experiencing diverse insecurities, giving rise to inter-ethnic distrust as well as intra-ethnic factionalism.

Keywords: southeast Asia, ethnic tensions, plural society, cultural pluralism, national identity, state legitimation, migration, globalization, ethnicity, nationalism

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