Ethnic Groups and Conflict in Modern Eastern Europe

This course examines the history of ethnic group formation and inter-ethnic conflict in modern Eastern Europe through questions such as (1) why do ethnic groups form? (2) what causes the salience of ethnicity to increase or decrease? and (3) what courses ethnic conflict? The course aims to refine students’ skills as historians by focusing on writing, interpretation, historical reasoning, discussion, and research. Students will grapple with theoretical models regarding ethnic groups and violence, will analyze primary sources, and will be expected to produce a polished piece of writing that applies both theoretical models and empirical research to the understanding of ethnic conflict in twentieth century European history.


Readings on Ethnic Group Formation

Frederik Barth, “Introduction,” in Frederik Barth ed., Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organization of Culture Difference (Boston: Little Brown, 1969) 9-38.

John and Jean Comaroff, “Of Totemism and Ethnicity: Consciousness, Practice, and the Signs of Inequality,” in John and Jean Comaroff, Ethnography and the Historical Imagination (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992) 49-67.

Henry E. Hale, The Foundations of Ethnic Politics: Separatism of States and Nations in Eurasia and the World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008).

Jeremy King, Budweisers into Czechs and Germans: A Local History of Bohemian Politics, 1848-1948 (Princeton  N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2002).

Emily Greble Balić, “When Croatia Needed Serbs: Nationalism and Genocide in Sarajevo, 1941-1942,” Slavic Review, 68/1 (2009): 116-138.

Mary Kay Gilliland, “Ethnic Nationality in the Former Yugoslavia: Ethnogenesis, Ethnic Cleansing, and Present-Day Identities among Croats, Serbs, and Bosniacs,” in Lola Romanucii-Ross, George A. de Vos, and Takeyuki Tsuda (eds.), Ethnic Identity: Problems and Prospects for the Twenty-First Century (Lanham: AltaMira Press, 2006) 88-118.

Andrea Boscoboinik, “Becoming Rom: Development among roma Communities in Bulgaria and Macedonia,” in Lola Romanucii-Ross, George A. de Vos, and Takeyuki Tsuda (eds.), Ethnic Identity: Problems and Prospects for the Twenty-First Century (Lanham: AltaMira Press, 2006) 295-310.


Readings on Ethnic Conflict

Christian Gerlach, Extremely Violent Societies (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Michael Mann, The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

Roger Dale Peterson, Understanding Ethnic Violence: Fear, Hatred, and Resentment in Twentieth-Century Eastern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (New York: Viking, 2005).

Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel (New York: Norton, 1999).

Stefan Wolff, Ethnic Conflict: A Global Perspective (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).

Timothy Snyder, “The Causes of Ukrainian-Polish Ethnic Cleansing 1943,” Past and Present, 179 (2003): 197–234.


Assessment Tasks

Essay One

Do a presentation to the class and write an essay evaluating and comparing two theories on how ethnic groups form OR two theories on why and how relationships between ethnic groups turn violent.

Essay Two

Using the sources from the “Jasenovac” collection on the USHMM website, describe what happened at the Jasenovac concentration camp. Make explicit reference to the sources and footnote your citations.

Preliminary Bibliography
Your preliminary bibliography must list ten books or articles that you will use to write your major research paper. It should include the two readings you used for essay one.

Give a fifteen minute presentation on the topic you will be writing your major essay on. Your presentation should make explicit reference to at least TWO articles on your topic from either the New York Times or the Times of London.

Final Paper

This should be a major piece of individual research dealing with some aspect of ethnic group formation and/or conflict in modern Eastern Europe.


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