Social science scholars have repeatedly predicted the demise of regional (or peripheral) nationalism, from the late nineteenth century to the post-World War II period and in the 1990s. However, all suggestions about the death of regional nationalism have been proven wrong. On the contrary, nationalist movements in the West have not only survived advanced capitalist development in liberal democratic contexts but have thrived as well. In the developing world, decolonization gave rise to a variety of regional nationalist movements that frequently spiraled into violent conflict and secessionist attempts. To deal with regional nationalism, states often turned to devolution, resulting in the implementation of various schemes of autonomy, most of which came under the guise of federalism. Three trends characterize the literature on regional nationalism and its management through devolution: a change in the way regional nationalism is viewed; a transformation in the type of political, institutional, and constitutional response scholars have suggested toward regional nationalism; and a willingness to accept, or even favor, secession as a possible solution to conflict in multinational and/or multiethnic countries. At the same time, there are at least two challenges in the study of regional nationalism and its management: objectivity and the need to develop a greater comparative perspective.
María Cecilia Míguez
Autonomy is a concept constantly referred to in Latin American foreign policy analysis, especially with respect to Argentina and Brazil. As great powers continue to exert effective control over peripheral economies and their political decision making, autonomy emerges as a possibility for self-determination in the areas where hegemonic powers’ economic, political, and cultural interferences are expressed. Although this is not a new concept, the quest for autonomy within the “global periphery”—and elsewhere too—still remains relevant. Helio Jaguaribe and Juan Carlos Puig’s theoretical approaches are fundamental epistemological contributions to international relations (IR), not only in South America (where the theoretical approach was first developed) but also to the wider IR field outside the mainstream scholarship. In line with global historical changes, autonomy took on some subsequent new meanings, which led to new and heterogeneous formulations that transformed, and in certain cases also contradicted, the very genesis of the idea of autonomy. As a result, the so-called autonomy “with adjectives” emerged within IR peripheral debates. The 21st century witnessed the rebirth of the concept amid the rise of multilateralism and the new Latin American regionalism, which brought its relational character to the fore. Some of the new approaches to autonomy, especially from Brazil, used the concept as a methodological tool to understand the historical evolution of the country’s foreign policy. As such, autonomy and its theoretical reflection remain central to the analyses and interpretations of the international relations of peripheral countries, and it is in this sense that the autonomy can be highlighted broadly as a Latin American contribution to IR discipline. The concept of autonomy has a unique and foundational content referred to the discussion of the asymmetries in the global order. Studying autonomy is critical to understanding peripheral countries’ problems and dynamics.
“Refugee repatriation” refers to the voluntary or forcible return of refugees back to the countries or regions from which they fled. It is broadly accepted that a state acts wrongly in forcibly repatriating refugees back to countries that remain unsafe. This is true for refugees fleeing war, persecution, environmental disasters, extreme poverty, and a range of other life-threatening conditions. What is less clear is whether a state acts wrongly in deporting refugees whose lives would no longer be at risk in their home countries, and who can obtain their basic rights. For example, it is not clear if Turkey and Germany would be justified in deporting back Syrian refugees if conditions sufficiently improved in Syria. It is additionally not clear whether humanitarian organizations ought to help refugees repatriate before retuning is safe, as when the United Nations helped Somali refugees repatriate from Kenya. Finally, it is not clear whether refugees have a right to repatriate to their home countries, and whether they have a right to return to the specific homes they left behind. For example, there is widespread debate over whether Palestinian refugees have a right to return to the homes they left in 1948 and 1967. Addressing these and other debates is essential for establishing ethical immigration policies and establishing the rights of refugees, organizations, and states.
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.