Can the World Cope?

Merriam Symposium at Penn Examines the Origins of Ethnic Conflict

The world we live in is cursed with a never ending cycle of identity wars spurred by identity politics. Bosnia, the Middle East, Kosovo, East Timor, Rwanda, Kashmir, Northern Ireland. Just as conflict subsides in one part of the globe, it erupts in another. Can the World Cope? The Challenge of Ethnopolitical Conflict, an international symposium presented by SAS, will investigate recent conflicts from anthropological, historical, political and psychological points of view. On November 29, reporters who witnessed these events and scholars who study them will discuss the critical issues that arise before, during and after ethnopolitical conflict and attempt to answer these questions: Why does this happen? Why is this happening now? Is reconciliation possible?

These conflicts present many challenges. The challenge for the community of nations is that these violent conflicts are occurring within states but often demand an international response. The challenge for psychologists and anthropologists is to understand how ethnicity becomes such a crucial part of people's identities. The challenge for journalists and historians is to separate the truth from the myths of the past. The challenge for politicians and political scientists is to create civil institutions that promote justice and democracy. At this day-long symposium, panelists will take an in-depth look at four "crucibles of conflict"-Kosovo, where a fragile peace depends on the presence of U.S. and NATO troops; Jerusalem, where a new intifada pits Palestinan young people against Israeli soldiers; Rwanda and Africa's Great Lake Region, where a genocide took place while the world watched and Kashmir, where nuclear powers India and Pakistan confront one another. Experts on conflict resolution will conclude the day with a discussion of "peace building."

The Merriam Symposium will be held November 29, from 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. The full schedule is below. All events are free and open to the public. All panels and programs will take place in Houston Hall. For more information visit

The Solomon Asch Center for the Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at Penn has taken the lead in creating a multi-disciplinary approach to training and research in the area of ethnic group conflict. The Asch Center was established in 1997, when Martin E. P. Seligman, Fox Leadership Professor of Psychology at Penn, was president of the American Psychological Association and Peter Suedfeld was president of the Canadian Psychological Association. They jointly called for new initiatives to understand and ameliorate the devastating conflicts caused by ethnopolitical violence. The Asch Center has established collaborative arrangements with a network of international sites that currently include organizations in Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine, South Africa and Sri Lanka.

The Merriam Symposium is one of many programs and activities of SAS made possible by a generous bequest from John Merriam, one of the Delaware Valley's leading real estate developers. Mr. Merriam graduated from Penn in 1931.


9 - 10:30 a.m. Ethnicity and Conflicts: Perspectives

Chair: Walter Licht is associate dean and professor of history at Penn.

Melvin Konner is Samuel Chandler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology and associate professor of psychiatry and neurology at Emory University. His book, The Nature of Our Nature: Instinct and Passion on the Human Spirit, has just been published.

Brendan O'Leary is a professor of political science at the London School of Economics and an expert on nationalism and ethnic conflict. In 1996 he published The Politics of Antagonism: Understanding Northern Ireland (with John McGarry).

Clark McCauley is co-director of the Solomon Asch Center; professor of psychology, Bryn Mawr College and adjunct professor of psychology, University of Pennsylvania. He recently co-edited Stereotype Accuracy: Toward an Appreciation of Group Differences.


10:40 - noon Kosovo

Chair: Ben Nathans holds the M. Mark & Esther K. Watkins Assistant Professorship in the Humanities and teaches history at Penn.

Christopher Hedges, is a reporter for the New York Times. He spent 15 years abroad, three as Balkans Bureau Chief from 1995 ­98, four as the Middle East bureau chief and has reported from many of the world's conflict zones.

Ivo Banac, Bradford Durfee Professor of History at Yale University, is the co-author (with Sabrina Petra Ramet) of Balkan Babel: The Disintegration of Yugoslavia from the Death of Tito to Ethnic War (1999).

10:40 - noon Jerusalem

Chair: Robert Vitalis is a professor of political science and director of the Middle East Center at Penn

Ian Lustick is a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. His present research focuses on the future of Jerusalem and great power rivalry in the Middle East.

Muhammad Hallaj is former director of the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine.

2-3:30 p.m. Rwanda and Africa's Great Lake Region

Chair: Thomas Callaghy is co-director of the Joseph H. Lauder Institute of Management and International Studies, the Wharton School, and professor of political science at Penn.

Gerard Prunier is a journalist and Africa scholar with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. In his book The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide (1995), he shows how events in Rwanda were part of a plan that served political and economic interests ­not the result of ancient tribal hatreds.

Mahmood Mandani, Herbert Lehman Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University, is the author of Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism (1996). His research concerns the reform and reproduction of political identities in South Africa, Rwanda, Uganda and Nigeria.

2-3:30 p.m. Kashmir

Chair: David Ludden is a professor of history at Penn who specializes in South Asian studies.

Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal are professors of history at Tufts University and the co-authors of Modern South Asia: History, Culture and Political Economy (1997).

4-6 p.m. Peace Building: Structures of Peace/ Processes and Reconciliation

Chair: Samuel H. Preston is dean of the School of Arts & Sciences at Penn and the Frederick J. Warren Professor of Demography.

Donald Horowitz is a member of the faculty of the Duke University School of Law. Since the publication of his book, Ethnic Groups in Conflict (1985), he has been consulted on the problems of divided societies and on policies to reduce ethnic conflicts in Russia, Romania, Nigeria, Tatarstan and Northern Ireland.

Pamela Felicity Reynolds was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, and received her Ph.D. at the University of Capetown in South Africa, were she has been a member of the anthropology faculty for many years. This year she is a visiting professor in the department of anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley. Her research focuses on childhood in South Africa.

Joseph V. Montville is director of the Preventive Diplomacy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. An expert in conflict resolution, he spent 23 years as a U.S. diplomat in the Middle East and North Africa.

Posted 11/28/2000