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  • The Politics of Nation-Building: Making Co-Nationals, Refugees, and Minorities by Harris Mylonas
  • Neovi M. Karakatsanis
Harris Mylonas . The Politics of Nation-Building: Making Co-Nationals, Refugees, and Minorities. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press . 2012 . Pp. xxiii + 255 . 10 figures, 1 graph, 8 illustrations, 8 maps, 38 tables. Paperback $29.99 .

In The Politics of Nation-Building: Making Co-Nationals, Refugees, and Minorities, Harris Mylonas explores the conditions under which states decide to target “non-core groups” (as opposed to “minorities,” which, despite the title of his book, Mylonas rejects as too narrow a concept). Defining such non-core groups as “any aggregation of individuals that is perceived as an unassimilated ethnic group (on a linguistic, [End Page 209] religious, physical, or ideological basis)” (xx, note 1), Mylonas sets out to determine when such groups will be targeted with assimilation, accommodation (the extension of minority status), or exclusionary policies (including population exchanges, deportations, and mass killings) by the host state in which they reside. Aiming to unravel the logic of political elites’ decision-making as they pursue one or a combination of these nation-building policies, the author attempts to construct a theory that explains the selection of these policies as well as accounts for policy change over time. Mylonas argues that the most prominent extant explanations in the social sciences—ones that focus on domestic variables, such as ethnic politics, political ideologies of ruling elites, regime type, etc.—are inadequate. His theory emphasizes, instead, the importance of international and geostrategic considerations. Theorizing that the variation in nation-building policies across space and time is the result of interactions between the host state and an external power (rather than between the host state and the non-core group), Mylonas maintains that external involvement drives the mobilization and politicization of the non-core group, the host state’s perception of it and, ultimately, the host state’s policies toward it.

Using the Balkans and, in particular, the six Balkan states that were a part of the Ottoman Empire for more than two centuries (Greece; the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes; Romania; Bulgaria; Albania; and Turkey) as test cases for his theory, Mylonas maintains that the “protracted intermingling of peoples, common experiences of past rule, similar modernization trajectories, a great deal of external involvement, and variation in the timing of their state-building experiences” (49) make these states an excellent context in which to test his theory against other well-known explanations, including the cultural distance, status reversal, and homeland arguments, among others. He begins by testing his theory on a cross-national dataset (which Mylonas himself compiled) of all non-core groups within these Balkan states in the immediate post-World War I period and finds that his argument is corroborated in 81% of cases (73 out of 91 observations). To further enrich his analysis, Mylonas then devotes an entire chapter (Chapter 5) to explaining the eighteen cases that were incorrectly predicted by his model and, in so doing, identifies a number of relevant methodological caveats pertinent to the nation-building process.

Had Mylonas stopped with the analysis of the 91 data points, his study would have likely left some readers questioning its ability to account for political elites’ attitudes and motivations in their pursuit of nation-building. However, Mylonas does not stop with the large-N study. Instead, he integrates several in-depth case studies, including a subnational study of Western Greek Macedonia as well as of Serbia and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, into his research. He does so to take a closer look at what he refers to as the “mechanisms at work” behind the nation-building process (12). Using secondary sources, archival materials, and relevant legislation to more closely analyze state policies toward non-core groups at the subnational level in Western Greek Macedonia, for example, Mylonas attempts to discern the “intentions” and “reasoning” behind the various policies towards non-core groups there (114). As Mylonas correctly claims, uncovering the motivations and intentions of political elites (as opposed to just looking at the policy outcomes) could not have taken place in the absence of this more qualitative and in-depth approach. Similarly...


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