Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflicts: A Global Discourse

Danjibo D Nathaniel




Thousands have died in the seemingly endless battles between two very Semitic people, the Jews and the Arabs. The English and the French glare hostilely at each other in Quebec; Christians and Muslims have renewed their ancient conflicts on the Islands of Mindanao; Turks and Greeks nervously grip their guns on Cyprus; and Celtic and Saxons in Ulster have begun to imprison and kill one another with all the cumulative passion of a thousand years' hostility (Greeley, 1974:10).

In times past, ethnicity was not necessarily in the picture of the global eyes because it was considered an outdated symbolic representa­tion of the global past; a phenomenon also considered to be associated with the primitive and the savage. As aptly captured by Campbell, (1997:1), "In the West, African tribalism has traditionally been seen as the epitome of primitive savagery. The expression conjures up images of ghastly mobs baying for blood, with heads cut off and stuck on poles. Even today every newspaper and television commentator has a list of African

atrocities - Rwanda, Somalia, Liberia-ready to hand whenever they wish to illustrate the barbarism". For this reason, both in scholar­ship and in policy framework, ethnicity did not matter to the world. In fact, its appearance in the literature was more an appeal for modernisation to take its toll on ethnicity so that it does not survive the precincts of development in the modern world. This is because developed peoples and developed societies did not have to waste their time talking about what did not matter - ethnicity. It was as a result of this thwarted notion that ethnicity was only tolerated in relation to discussing backward and primitive societies (Geertz, 1963; Bates, 1983).

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