a separate identity at all; rather, Hindu polemicists can argue that Sikhism is a sect within Hinduism and therefore that Sikhs are Hindus. Similarly, some Turks maintain that Kurds are not a distinct ethnic group or nation but merely a local group of "mountain Turks," and Serbs and Croats sometimes claim that Bosnian Muslims are "nothing but" Islamicized Serbs or Croats. The claims to groupness, to being a real and distinct group at all, are entirely and often easily negotiable or defeasible. At any rate, within the internally differentiated ethnic group, elites may exist or arise in and represent or draw support from one or more of the internal constituencies. For example, traditional religious elites may represent part of the group, aristocratic elites another part, and bourgeois or proletarian elites still other parts; elites of different local or kinship groups, as among the Kurds, may inspire and mobilize their traditional followers but not any other part of the "nation." It is of critical importance to appreciate that what is perceived as, and what is perhaps being advanced as, the "will of the nation," may in fact be the will of a segment or faction of the nation or merely the will of the elite leadership. Further, each of these elites may have a different notion of what the group should be and what the group should do. They are rival elites, with perspectives and interests of their own—to see their own particular version of ethnic history, culture, or identity prevail and "to become the sole political representative of the community."  Each of the rival elites allegedly sees this as good for the group (giving it maximal cohesion and unity) but it is also good for the elites themselves (giving them maximal power and influence, if not wealth and prestige). Many people criticize ethnic leaders as sheer opportunists and demagogues, and doubtless there are some of these, both internationally and domestically. But it will do us no good to dismiss them on that basis if they are influential and important to all or some of the mobilized group. The fact of elite rivalry is ignored only at our own intellectual and political peril. The danger is that most people, as scholars or citizens, may mistake ethnic groups for monolithic blocs with a single identity, agenda, and leadership. For instance, it is to misunderstand and misjudge the situations in Sri Lanka or Northern Ireland or Israel/Palestine to assume that the ethnic groups involved speak with one voice and act in one interest. Within the Tamil group of Sri Lanka there have been any number of leaders and organizations, often in contradiction or outright confrontation with each other. To use a more familiar and internationally destabilizing example, while we all know the PLO and Yasir Arafat as representative and leader of the Palestinian
people, it would be an error—as is becoming increasingly obvious—to believe that it and he speak for and control the entire group; rival groups, like Hamas and Hezbollah, with different
You've reached the end of your free preview.
Want to read all 37 pages?
- Fall '19
- Test, Ethnic group