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Can the Yugoslavia conflict be termed as an 'ethnic' war?

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  1. Introduction
  2. A potential economic and ecological importance
    1. A possible flexibility of the treaty for a future operation?
    2. Climatic upheaval with multiple outcomes
  3. Towards recognition of indigenous peoples
  4. The Arctic: a military zone that is highly strategic
  5. Conclusion

Is the adjective 'ethnic' a "word of combat"? If we accept the finding and the conviction which was reached at the end of historian Koselleck's work, that a word is a "condensation of social history", it becomes possible to consider the concept of ethnicity, its potential relevance and the role it has played directly or indirectly in the perception of conflict by the combatants, external actors and analysts as well as in the management and resolution of the collapse of Yugoslavia.

The Yugoslav conflict is regarded as an ethnic conflict, as the first wave swept the globe with the end of ideologies, particularly the communist ideology, and the bipolar international order and for this reason, it can be used as a paradigm for all the thoughts and categorizations of "ethnic" conflict as propounded by Mary Kaldor.

How is it possible to explain that the Yugoslav conflict has been reviewed, has also had considerable repercussions, without its determinants being subject to a consensus? This leads to three questions: what is meant by ethnicity; what does this term cover precisely? To what extent can the breakup of Yugoslavia be attributed to the country's ethnic divisions? Up to what point did the ethnic aspect of the conflict influence its resolution and the intervention of the foreign powers and the later theorization, not only of the Yugoslav conflict itself but more generally of the "ethnic" wars?

The difference in terms of people, ethnicity, tribe and nation emerged as a focus for studies very recently, the nineteenth century. The term ethnic group derived from Anglo-Saxon anthropology is based on a French equivalent of the tribe to designate scattered groups, which do not form a centralized political system. For a long time it was used to designate "apolitical" groups, the pre-state societies studied by anthropologists. Gradually with the development of science and colonization appeared some difference between these terms. The first, ethnicity is the focus of research of ethnology and anthropology, the second was used in a Western context.

The use of the second term regarding people or nations has become more rewarding and adopted by those who studied Western populations, so-called "civilized", while the term ethnic group, both reductive and demeaning used to describe social groups around the world including colonial territories. The difference today still tends to consider the notion of people as positive and real and ethnicity as negative and artificial or archaic. In both cases, it is an organized group of individuals who share a common culture, or even if it is not always the case, inhabit a territory.

Can we define an ethnic group? Structural anthropology has long been regarded as ethnic frames fixed, coherent and consistent, which individuals adhere to in their entirety. Or as recalled Denis-Constant Martin, identities are neither immutable nor permanent. They mean more similarity that difference, which feed each other, recognition of what is Other and concomitantly what is Self. However, companies cannot remain purely neutral to exist, Castoriadis reminds us in ?The Imaginary Institution of Society', they must expand beyond their functional organization against which they can build and re-forge their identity. These identities are highly proprietary, they focus on certain key elements to set aside all others.

Tags: ethnic group, Yugoslav conflict, Mary Kaldor

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