For some time, scholars have noticed that ethnic groups that are geographically concentrated or possess a “regional base” tend to become embroiled in anti-state rebellion at a much higher rate than other ethnic groups. Countries with higher numbers of geographically concentrated ethnic minorities and self-determination movements tend to see more internal violence. Furthermore, if popular demands for independence exist, they may or may not reach serious political expression, and that expression may take various forms, from electoral action to protest or outright rebellion. The form of expression depends on institutional constraints and various factors that generate reasons for conflict; however, not all attempts at secession are done with violence. Many secessionist organizations have in fact refrained from violence, and some governments permit secessionists to organize, to contest elections, and even to pursue independence through the political process. Recently, scholarship has begun to move away from the determinants of popular demands for sovereignty to the dynamics of secessionist mobilization, including collective protest and rebellion. This research sees the struggle between nationalists and the state in the context of game theory, particularly deterrence models, and generally stresses concepts such as capability, information, and credibility. Secessionism overall remains a research frontier in both comparative politics and international relations.
Terrorism has been described variously as a tactic and strategy, a crime and a holy duty, as well as a justified reaction to oppression and an inexcusable abomination. Nationalist terrorism is a form of terrorism motivated by nationalism. Nationalist terrorists seek to form self-determination in some form, which may range from gaining greater autonomy to establishing a completely independent, sovereign state. Nationalist terrorism is linked to a national, ethnic, religious, or other identifying group, and the feeling among members of that group that they are oppressed or denied rights, especially rights accorded to others. But while terrorism has more often been based on revolutionary politics, there has also been an increase in terrorist activity motivated by religion. Terrorist acts done in the name of religion typically aim to enforce a system of belief, viewpoint or opinion. The validity and scope of religious terrorism is limited to an individual’s view or a group’s view or interpretation of that belief system’s teachings. There are some researchers, however, who argue that religion should be considered only one incidental factor and that such terrorism is primarily geopolitical. Meanwhile, ethnic violence refers to violence expressly motivated by ethnic hatred and ethnic conflict. The minimum requirement for ethnic tensions to result in ethnic violence on a systemic level is a heterogeneous society and the lack of a power to prevent them from fighting.
Kristin P. Johnson and Ashlea Rundlett
Conflicts that occur along ethnic or nationalist lines are often the most protracted, violent, and difficult to resolve in the long term. Civil wars are often divided into two distinct types: ethnic/religious wars (identity), and revolutionary wars (nonidentity). The distinction between these conflict types is based on whether cleavages within a society occur along ethnic lines or along lines that cut across ethnic divisions and are focused on issues including class, ideology, or seeking significant policy orientation of change. The most significant theoretical and empirical contributions to the understanding of ethnic conflicts in recent years come from the disaggregation of civil wars focusing on micro- and group-level dynamics. This disaggregation supports theoretical advancement and a departure from using macro-level data with micro-level mechanisms supports transition from a monadic to dyadic study of ethnic conflict, and supports examination of potential causal mechanisms of ethnic violence. Scholarly traditions and theoretical approaches explaining identity mobilization along ethnic or nationalist lines, the contributing factors that explain the transition from mobilization to the exercise of political violence, the duration of identity-based conflicts, and the long-term prospects for settlement of the conflict have enjoyed a proliferation of studies using newly available data featuring subnational units. These include explanations of conflicts based in sociological foundations focused on the formation and maintenance of identity, structural explanations for internal conflict focus on the capacity of the state and the distribution of political authority within a political system, and the opportunity for rebellion.