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Partition (politics)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The island of Ireland after partition between the primarily Irish nationalist Southern Ireland (today the Republic of Ireland) and the Irish unionist-majority Northern Ireland (today part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland).

In politics, a partition is a change of political borders cutting through at least one territory considered a homeland by some community.[1]

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Brendan O'Leary distinguishes partition from secession, which take place within existing recognized political units.[1]

For Arie Dubnov and Laura Robson, partition is the physical division of territory along ethno-religious lines into separate nation-states. They locate partition in the context of post-World War I peacebuilding and the "new conversations surrounding ethnicity, nationhood, and citizenship" that emerged out of it.[2] The post-war agreements, such as the League of Nations mandate system, promoted "a new political language of ethnic separatism as a central aspect of national self-determination, while protecting and disguising continuities and even expansions of French and, especially, British imperial powers.[3]

While Ranabir Samaddar identifies the Dissolution of Austria-Hungary as an example of partition, resulting from competing national ambitions, he agrees partition gained prominence following World War I, particularly with the division of the Ottoman Empire. By this point, he argues ethnicity had become the primary justification of border proposals.[4]

After World War II, Dubnov and Robson argue partition transformed from "an imperial tactic into an organizing principle" of world diplomacy".[5]

Scholarship has closely linked partition to violence. Tracing the precedent for the Partition of Ireland in population resettlements across former Ottoman Empire territories and the making of national 'majorities' and 'minorities', Dubnov and Robson emphasise how partitions after Ireland contained proposals to transfer "inconvenient populations in addition to forcible territorial division into separate states", which they note had violent consequences for local actors who were devolved the task of "carving out physically separate political entities on the ground and making them ethnically homogenous".[6]

T.G. Fraser notes how Britain proposed partition in both Ireland and Palestine as a method of resolving conflict between competing national groups, but in neither case did it end communal violence. Rather, Fraser argues, partition merely gave these conflicts a "new dimension".[7]

Similarly, A. Dirk Moses asserts partition does not "so much solve minority issues as deposit them into different containers as minority issues reappear in partitioned units", rejecting what he calls "divine cartographies" that seek to "neatly map peoples as naturally emplaced in their homelands" for disregarding the heterogeneous reality of identity in the real world.[8]

Arguments for

  • historicist – that partition is inevitable, or already in progress
  • last resort – that partition should be pursued to avoid the worst outcomes (genocide or large-scale ethnic expulsion), if all other means fail
  • cost–benefit – that partition offers a better prospect of conflict reduction than if the existing borders are not changed
  • better tomorrow – that partition will reduce current violence and conflict, and that the new more homogenized states will be more stable
  • rigorous end – heterogeneity leads to problems, hence homogeneous states should be the goal of any policy[1]

Arguments against

  • national territorial unity will be lost
  • bi-nationalism and multi-nationalism are not undesirable
  • the impossibility of a just partition
  • difficult in deciding how the new border(s) will be drawn
  • the likelihood of disorder and violence
  • partitioning alone does not lead to the desired homogenization
  • security issues arising within the borders of the new states[1]

Daniel Posner has argued that partitions of diverse communities into homogenous communities is unlikely to solve problems of communal conflict, as the boundary changes will alter the actors' incentives and give rise to new cleavages.[9] For example, while the Muslim and Hindu cleavages might have been the most salient amid the Indian independence movement, the creation of a religiously homogenous Hindu state (India) and a religiously homogeneous Muslim state (Pakistan) created new social cleavages on lines other than religion in both of those states.[9] Posner writes that relatively homogenous countries can be more violence-prone than countries with a large number of evenly matched ethnic groups.[10]


Notable examples are: (See Category:Partition)

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Brendan O'Leary, DEBATING PARTITION: JUSTIFICATIONS AND CRITIQUES Archived 31 October 2019 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Dubnov, Arnie; Robson, Laura (2019). Partitions: A Transnational History of Twentieth-Century Territorial Separatism. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. p. 1.
  3. ^ Dubnov; Robson, pp.1-2
  4. ^ Samaddar, Ranabir (2005). Partitions: Reshaping States and Minds. Abingdon: Frank Cass & Co. pp. 92–124.
  5. ^ Dubnov; Robson, p.11
  6. ^ Dubnov; Robson, p.7
  7. ^ Fraser, T.G. (1984). Partition in Ireland, India and Palestine. London: Macmillan.
  8. ^ Dubnov; Robson, pp.258-263
  9. ^ a b Posner, Daniel N. (26 September 2017). "When and why do some social cleavages become politically salient rather than others?". Ethnic and Racial Studies. 40 (12): 2001–2019. doi:10.1080/01419870.2017.1277033. ISSN 0141-9870. S2CID 4507156.
  10. ^ Posner, Daniel N. (2003). "The Colonial Origins of Ethnic Cleavages: The Case of Linguistic Divisions in Zambia". Comparative Politics. 35 (2): 127–146. doi:10.2307/4150148. ISSN 0010-4159. JSTOR 4150148.
  11. ^ Norman Davies. God's Playground, p. 28
  12. ^ Stephen R. Turnbull. Tannenberg 1410: Disaster for the Teutonic Knights p. 89
  13. ^ Millot, Claude François Xavier. Elements of General History: Ancient and Modern p. 227
  14. ^ Arthur Hassall. The Balance of Power, 1715–1789, p. 242
  15. ^ "Today in History – June 20: Mountaineers Always Freemen". Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  16. ^ "A State of Convenience: The Creation of West Virginia, Chapter Twelve, Reorganized Government of Virginia Approves Separation". West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  17. ^ "The Polish Occupation. Czechoslovakia was, of course, mutilated not only by Germany. Poland and Hungary also each asked for their share." Hubert Ripka Munich, Before and After: A Fully Documented Czechoslovak Account [1]
  18. ^ Davies, p. 101
  19. ^ Samuel Leonard Sharp: Poland, White Eagle on a Red Field
  20. ^ Norman Davies: God's Playground [2]
  21. ^ Debates of the Senate of the Dominion of Canada

Further reading

  • Berg, Eiki. "Re-examining sovereignty claims in changing territorialities: reflections from ‘Kosovo Syndrome’." Geopolitics 14.2 (2009): 219-234.
  • Downes, Alexander B. "More Borders, Less Conflict? Partition as a Solution to Ethnic Civil Wars." SAIS Review of International Affairs 26.1 (2006): 49–61.
  • Fearon, James D. "Separatist wars, partition, and world order." Security Studies 13.4 (2004): 394–415.
  • Horowitz, Michael C., Alex Weisiger, and Carter Johnson. "The limits to partition." International Security 33.4 (2009): 203–210.
  • Kumar, Radha. "The Partition Debate: Colonialism Revisited or New Policies?." The Brown Journal of World Affairs 7.1 (2000): 3–11.
  • Kumar, Radha. "Settling Partition Hostilities: Lessons Learned, Options Ahead." The Fate of the Nation-state (2004): 247.
  • O'Leary, Brendan. "Debating partition: justifications and critiques." Revised version of portion of a paper presented at final conference of the Mapping frontiers, plotting pathways: routes to north–south cooperation in a divided island programme, City Hotel, Armagh, 19–20 January 2006. University College Dublin. Institute for British-Irish Studies (2006).
  • Robson, Laura. States of Separation: Transfer, Partition, and the Making of the Modern Middle East. University of California Press (2017).
  • Sambanis, Nicholas, and Jonah Schulhofer-Wohl. "What's in a line? Is partition a solution to civil war?." International Security 34.2 (2009): 82–118.
This page was last edited on 14 May 2024, at 20:12
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