Ethnic Cleansing

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This paper concerns the matter of ethnic cleansing, a relatively new concept. It was introduced in 1992, when Serbs removed non-Serbs from ‘their’ territory in the former republic of Yugoslavia. The following quote, derived from the Washington Post on the 5th of August 1992, denotes the introduction of the term:

‘The 20th century taught us that far-out political ideas can have fateful consequences. Our vocabulary has been enriched with new words to denote these political innovations. Fascism and Leninism, gulag and concentration camp, KGB and Gestapo are all words that one cannot find in a 19th century dictionary. One more term has now been added to this list – ethnic cleansing. This antiseptic-sounding label denotes a cunning strategy of territorial aggrandizement that today is being perfected in Bosnia, right before our eyes and in front of the world's television cameras’ (Ikle, 1992).

The author of the news article thus compares ethnic cleansing with other political concepts that were introduced in the 20th century. The concept, though, goes not really without saying. When thinking about the cleansing of a group of humans, most people think of mass murder and genocide. But is this a right connotation? What is exactly meant by ethnic cleansing? And what is ethnicity or an ethnic group? This is one of the matters that will be paid attention to in this writing. Furthermore, this essay will particularly shed light on the relation between ethnic cleansing and nation-state building. It aims to discuss and analyse several questions, including: Is ethnic cleansing really a necessary outcome of the state-building process? What role does national identity play regarding ethnic cleansing and nation-state building? And what...

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