Democracy and Nationalism in Southeast Asia

Democracy and Nationalism in Southeast Asia: From Secessionist Mobilization to Conflict Resolution is a new book by Jacques Bernard. It is published by Cambridge University Press, and reviewed for JCA by Meghna Kajla of the Department of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore.

The book is an effort to understand the various outcomes of nationalist conflicts in the democratising polities Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand. For Thailand, which is no democracy, the period discussed is of a more open time in that country’s politics.

Using historical qualitative methods, the book looks at the role of democratic institutions in mediating interaction between political actors in conflict situations. The author examines the formal political institutions that provide a channel for nationalist groups to demand, negotiate, and bargain; a process that results in the mitigation of nationalist conflicts, with case studies of Aceh, Papua, and the southern separatist regions of the Philippines and Thailand.

The reviewer concludes:

The book makes a firm contribution to comparative studies in political science and to area studies. Scholars working on democracy, nationalist and ethnic conflicts and those doing institutional analysis will find Democracy and Nationalism in Southeast Asia useful and enlightening. For its deep comparative insights, it should be of particular interest for those in Southeast Asian studies and using qualitative methods. Its rich comparative studies implicitly point to the aridness of large-N analysis, where people and institutions are often lost in the data.


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