Pax Ethnica: Where and How Diversity Succeeds

Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac. PublicAffairs, $28.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-58648-829-1
From 2009 to 2011, journalist-historians Meyer and Brysac (coauthors of Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East) visited five “neglected oases of civility” where ethnic comity prevails: Flensburg, Germany, where peaceful accommodation reigns after centuries of Schleswig-Holstein strife; the Indian state of Kerala, where Hindu, Muslim, and Christian populations not only “flourish peacefully, but…have led the way in literacy, life expectancy, and health care within the world’s most populous democracy”; the Russian Republic of Tatarstan where “comity contrasts with turbulent Chechnya’s unending strife”; multiethnic Marseilles, France, unaffected by the autumn 2005 violence which spread through hundreds of towns; and Queens, New York, “arguably the world’s most diverse political unit, in which 2.3 million people speak 138 languages.” All share pasts of conflict which the authors succinctly review as they interview a wide range of political figures and distinguished citizens: two legislators in Flensburg; a newspaper editor in Tatarstan; a Keralite environmental activist; Marseille’s premier female rapper; and the Borough President of Queens, among others. Treaty or tradition may contribute to ethnic comity, so may location, the happenstance of history, and the passage of time. In the development of “sane oases in a rabid world,” they argue, individuals make it happen, and they offer “11 guidelines for promoting civility in diverse societies”—un-news, but good news. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/23/2012
Release date: 03/01/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
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