Primordialism”

Primordialism”

Primordialism or perennialism is the argument which contends that nations are ancient, natural phenomena. Primordialism encountered enormous criticism after the Second World War, with many scholars of nationalism coming to treat the nation as a community constructed by the technologies and politics of modernity.

According to Wikipedia research “Primordialism in Rwanda” Primordialism, in relation to ethnicity, argues that “ethnic groups and nationalities exist because there are traditions of belief and action towards primordial objects such as biological factors and especially territorial location”. This argument relies on a concept of kinship, where members of an ethnic group feel they share characteristics, origins or sometimes even a blood relationship. Seen through the Igbos of Nigeria, following what they felt was their origin as descendants of the Jews. “Primordialism assumes ethnic identity as fixed, once it is constructed”  The reading I like the most in the “intercultural conflict and diversity management” was the  point may be generally that the conflicts we’re dealing with here arise from the changing nature of states, territorial integrity and the impact of globalization. Some commentators have referred to this in terms of the relation and tension between “identity space” and “decision space”. That is, the world in
which people seek to make sense of their lives, to establish their moral worlds, is not necessarily the same world as the one in which the “conventional” decisions and moral norms are made. This is the foundation of the normative conflicts referred to earlier.

Going through the text and study materials I noticed the following three which includes and well elaborates the (substructure diversity, perspectival diversity and the communal diversity). Each of this diversity classification is well elaborated as bellow and more interestingly the France example which seeks to deny that it is politically multicultural, cannot avoid the descriptive, demographic fact of their diversity. The French response is based on:

Its strong traditions of citizenship in which all those integrated into the nation enjoy the same rights and obligations. And the assumption that as the values of French society are believed to be not peculiarly French but universal in their validity, France feel justified in requiring its “minorities” to abide by them. But, despite that perception, there is a greater acceptance of cultural differences and that culture matters to people. The question is: how can we match this respect for culture with the principle of equal citizenship? And how do we manage those perceptions so as to minimize the risk of conflicts? In recent years there are hot debates on Muslims women wearing Hejab but the rules and regulation of France suggest something against it which itself indicates a degree of religious intolerance and that is the base of conflict but diversity is total a different issue.

Multiculturalism is thus about cultural diversity. There are clearly other forms of difference, but not all derived from culture nor based on the same kinds of claims. And the conflicts that arise are also embedded in this difficult idea of culture. In order to understand the dynamics of diversity and conflict, we may however need to distinguish between some skills:

  • Subculturaldiversity–gays, lesbians, etc., not seeking an alternative culture but rather seeking o pluralize the dominant one; Reflection What is the difference, in practice, between tolerance of difference; respect for differences; and recognition of the claims based on those differences?
  • Perspectival diversity–where the claims are not about distinct cultural communities but rather about how the dominant community might be “reconstituted” or opened up–e.g. feminist arguments;
  • Communaldiversity–territorial concentrated groups like Basques, Catalans, Scots; “self- conscious and more or less well-organized communities entertaining and living by their own different systems of belief and practices”. Communal diversity shares some features with the other two but is a distinctive type of claim, especially in wishing to preserve a particular way of life.

 

The concept of primordialism as defined by Geertz, is based on the idea of assumed givens It defends the theory that human beings are overpoweringly attached to their ethnicity. Primordialism conveys the message that our connections to blood, language and cultural traditions amongst other elements, can have an ineffable cohesiveness to our nature. From this perspective derives the idea that conflict erupts due to the intrinsic differences of different ethnicity and that this type of conflict is to be expected. While different traditions and perspectives can be conflictive at times, the concept of primordialism is lacking in its understanding of human interaction. Furthermore, its assumption of coerciveness limits the flexibility of human nature and makes conflict the only option.

The primordialist view can be conflict-inducing because of its defeatist outlook. It assumes that ethnicities are impenetrable and unchangeable and it sees a conflict of interests as the only natural result of the interaction between two or more ethnicities. Such a narrow perspective can have a self-fulfilling effect on human interaction. If you only expect conflict, you will most likely only be open to conflict.

Another limiting quality of this perspective is the fixed nature it confers to human beings. Primordialism limits human capabilities of reasoning and empathy by believing that we are all subjected to our “accepted givens”. It assumes that we are so profoundly attached to our roots that we are incapable of relating peacefully with human beings whose roots differ from our own. Moreover, describing culture and identity in primordial terms, bestows an inaccurate sense of immobility. It fails to portray how flexible our cultures can be, how rapidly they can develop and how much we can learn from other ethnicities. Again, this encourages a narrow-minded approach to human interaction, which inevitably leads to conflictive relations.

Peace,

Sial

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