The end of the cold war has coincided with, and in some cases fuelled, the politicisation of ethnically based nationalism, particularly in Eastern Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. The international political environment had previously been characterised by ideological competition and conflict between the United States on the one hand and the Soviet Union and Communist China on the other. Both of these ideological camps stressed the cohesion and viability of multi-ethnic nation-states, and as a matter of policy discouraged the representation of groups based upon a distinctive ethnic identity,1 a tendency reinforced in social science scholarship, which often focused on what was described as the process of national political integration. To the extent that it existed and was relevant, scholars generally agreed that ethnic solidarity was different from nationalism in that it did not require the creation of an ethnically pure nation-state. Today, however, the notion of the inviolability of certain internationally recognised entities is being seriously called into question as ethnic groups assert their right to self-determination up to, and including, separation from the multi-ethnic state.
* Professor of Political Science and Director of the James S. Coleman African Studies Center, University of California, Los Angeles.