Demographic Engineering: Population Strategies in Ethnic Conflict


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Jan 21 2017 38 mins   16
Dr Paul Morland (Birkbeck) Demographic Engineering: Population Strategies in Ethnic Conflict with a response from Dean Godson (Director, Policy Exchange) Morland“All history is the history of ethnic conflict and in ethnic conflict numbers count.” With this bold statement, Paul Morland opens his new book which argues that ethnic conflict is pervasive across time and space and those with the weight of numbers on their side, either of soldiers or voters, have at the very least an important advantage and often a decisive one. It is therefore surprising that little thought has been given to demography in the context of ethnic conflict. Whilst some consideration has been paid to whether demography causes conflict – when and how particular demographic circumstances may trigger and shape wars and strife – little thinking has been given to how, once conflicts get going, groups use demography as part of their strategy or indeed pursue demography as a strategic goal. Morland offers a framework for thinking about political demography then uses it to illuminate four cases, Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine and the USA. The framework revolves around what he calls ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ demographic engineering. Hard demographic engineering involves creating, moving or destroying people, as with genocide, pronatalism and ethnically selective policies of immigration and emigration. By contrast, soft demographic engineering encompasses the movement of political or identity boundaries in order to incorporate or exclude. Examples of the hard form include the expatriation of ‘Indian’ Tamils in Sri Lanka, encouragement of Catholic emigration from Northern Ireland, the high birth rate of both Jews and Arabs in Israel / Palestine and the Back to Africa Movement in the United States. Examples of soft demographic engineering include the partition of Ireland, the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the selective annexation of conquered Mexican territory by the United States. Teasing out sources and supplementing the secondary record with interviews and archival work, Morland has thrown new light on the workings of ethnic conflict and offers an intriguing and fresh perspective on an important part of the way the world works, relevant for historians, geographers, social scientists and policy-makers alike.