Introduction to Borders, Sovereignty and Culture

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Introduction to Borders, Sovereignty and Culture

Conflicts often arise over national borders or issues of sovereignty. "To Every Englishman in India" highlights India's struggle for political sovereignty. Another article features the on-going struggle between Israel and its neighbors over borders and sovereignty, an issue complicated by endemic violence. Far from simple territorial wars, these brutal disputes fueled by ethnic and religious tension can devlove into warfare on civilians, mass killings, and genocidal "ethnic cleansing." After the fall of Yugoslavia, the Balkans descended into prolonged war as rival groups fought to establish fledgling nations. "A Pictorial Guide to Hell" describes the experiences of a photojournalist during the Balkan Wars.

Conflict also arises within national borders. There is a long-standing struggle between many national governments and indigenous populations. Sometimes, indigenous populations exist within one nation's borders, but wish for greater freedom to practice and protect indigenous ways of life. In other instances, such as Mayan populations in Central America, national borders transect traditional indigenous lands, possibly fragmenting indigenous populations and jeopardizing uniform preservation of indigenous culture. The article on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities discusses the ongoing effort of the international community to balance the interests of national governments and minority populations while addressing these issues.

Minority populations, whether indigenous or immigrant, are too often victims of human rights abuses. Australia's Aborigine (Indigenous Australian) population endured a two-century brutal campaign of cultural genocide. The Australian government has taken great strides in the past four decades to protect Aboriginal culture and atone for former anti-indigenous policies. "Millicent," part of an oral history project for Indigenous Australians, recounts a personal story of forced removal of Aborigine children. The American Indian and early Chinese immigrant experience in the United States is similarly discussed in this chapter.

Human rights issues rooted in religion are included in this chapter. The United Nations Declaration on Human rights advocates freedom of religion and promotes religious tolerance. One article profiles significant barriers to religious freedom. Others discuss state limitations on religious expression (see, "Chriac Calls for Ban on Headscarves). The editors recognize that religion is a significant aspect of many national, ethnic, and cultural identities. However, this chapter also profiles instances where a significant portion of the international community condemned a practice rooted in ethnic tradition or religious law. Caste systems, honor killings, child marriage, and forced rape are some of the examples of such human rights abuses; all are profiled in this chapter.

Finally, this chapter includes two entries on the impact of the Internet; the Internet is reshaping cultures and redefining borders. Information can travel the world in seconds, a threatening prospect to some regimes. The medium raises new questions about censorship and the free exchange of information.

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Introduction to Borders, Sovereignty and Culture