Despite implicating ethnicity in everything from civil war to ecomic failure, researchers seldom consult psychological research when addressing the most basic question: What is ethnicity? The result is a radical scholarly divide generating contradictory recommendations for solving ethnic conflict. Research into how the human brain actually works demands a revision of existing schools of thought. Hale argues ethnic identity is a cognitive uncertainty-reduction device with special capacity to exacerbate, but t cause, collective action problems. This produces a new general theory of ethnic conflict that can improve both understanding and practice. A deep study of separatism in the USSR and CIS demonstrates the theory's potential, mobilizing evidence from elite interviews, three local languages, and mass surveys. The outcome significantly reinterprets nationalism's role in CIS relations and the USSR's breakup, which turns out to have been a far more contingent event than commonly recognized.
Henry E. Hale (Ph.D. Harvard University, 1998, born February 5, 1966) is Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University. His work on ethnic politics, regional integration, democratization, and federalism has appeared in numerous journals, ranging from Comparative Political Studies to Europe-Asia Studies to Orbis. His first book, Why Not Parties in Russia?: Democracy, Federalism and the State (Cambridge University Press, 2006), was selected a winner of the Leon D. Epstein Outstanding Book Award by the Political Organizations and Parties section of the American Political Science Association (APSA). His Divided We Stand (2004) won two awards, including the APSA Qualitative Methods Section's 2005 Alexander L. George Award for best article in qualitative methods. The National Science Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research have funded his research. He has also been the recipient of a Fulbright research scholarship, a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard's Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and a Peace Scholarship from the US Institute of Peace.