views updated May 14 2018



To paraphrase Winston Churchill, partition is the worst solution to political conflict, perhaps, except all others. Partition is an inadequate political tool whose time always comes when other solutions seem to be lacking. Often employed to resolve conflict and restore stability, partition frequently tends to exacerbate that which the division was intended ameliorate. In light of the tendency for partition to rise to the top of a list of options and the unintended consequences of partition, consider: What is partition, when does it succeed, and when does it fail?

Partition is the political division of territory. It is usually employed to resolve violent ethnic or religious strife. By physically separating conflicting groups, those who advocate partition stress its conflict-resolution benefits and downplay its unforeseen costs. It is most often precipitated by armed conflict, which in several notable cases has invited some manifestation of international intervention. However, partition is not a panacea and often tends to increase rather than ease tensions.

Partition succeeds when the following occur: (1) both sides accept (albeit sometimes grudgingly) the division; (2)violent conflict has been permanently suspended; and (3) stability is restored, and a lasting peace can be guaranteed. All these factors considered, however, partition is often an inappropriate and unsuccessful method of conflict resolution. Indeed, partition may intensify differences, inflame ethnic rivalries, damage domestic infrastructure, and be accompanied by forced mass migrations. The desire to separate warring groups or factions to avert further violence may appear to be a rational response, but history has demonstrated that partition is an imperfect solution. Perhaps with the exception of the comparatively peaceful Velvet Divorce, in which the former Czechoslovakia was split into separate, homogenous, mutually consenting Czech and Slovak nations, one would be hard-pressed to locate an example of a truly successful partition (see Kumar 2003).

Partition fails when the following occur: (1) a partition agreement fails to meet the demands of opposing sides; (2) violence is not significantly diminished or eliminated (i.e., a permanent ceasefire has not been reached); 3) relations between opposing groups are not improved but rather deteriorate, culminating in renewed conflict. In this respect, partition has proven an ineffective political instrument. Conflicts are aggravated, rivalries are intensified, and in some instances violence continues uninterrupted. To explore why partition fails, consider its historical applications.

The partition of Palestine, while not only one of the most controversial territorial divisions in contemporary history, demonstrates the degenerative effect partition can have on ethnic violence. The eruption of violence between Jewish settlers and indigenous Arabs convinced the international community of the need to establish two independent states within the territory of Palestine: one Jewish and the other Arab. The partition was reluctantly accepted by the Jewish Agency but rejected by Arab leaders, who believed their right to national self-determination had been unjustly abrogated.

Following the 1948 war, Israel seized more land than had been provided under the United Nations Partition Plan, and as a result, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees were displaced. The partition did little to mitigate the subsequent Arab-Israeli conflict; the division inflamed tensions, leading to several wars between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The occupation of Palestinian territory by the Israel Defense Forces followed the 1967 war. The occupation led to the emergence of Palestinian extremism, which in its various phases has waged a nearly interminable terrorism campaign against Israel. Although the partition of Palestine resulted in the establishment of an independent state of Israel, violence between Israel and Palestine, while abated by intermittent periods of calm, has continued almost without pause since partition.

Partition was not only the rage in Palestine; it was also the proposed British solution to the question of India. Two authors, Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, offer insightful examinations of both the partition of Palestine and partition of India in O Jerusalem (1988) and Freedom at Midnight (1997), respectively.

Like the partition of Palestine, the partition of India was both promising and problematic. To relieve itself of its colonial responsibilities in India, which had become increasingly onerous because of growing civil unrest and the high costs of maintaining a large colony, the British initiated the process of partitioning India into distinct, homogenous Hindu and Muslim nations. While the 1947 partition created independent Indian and Pakistani states, the division also resulted in a large-scale migration and widespread violence, displacing and killing multitudes of civilians.

The legacy of the partition of India has contributed to several long-term problems. These include myriad border disputes and the seemingly interminable conflict over the predominantly Muslim but Indian-controlled region of Kashmir. As of the end of the twentieth century, both states were in possession of nuclear weapons. This situation not only conjures up ever more nightmarish scenarios of Indo-Pakistani wars but has also served to attenuate stability on the subcontinent.

In other cases, partition was used by regional and global powers to create spheres of influence (Samaddar 2003). New states were suddenly being carved out and molded in the political and ideological image of more dominant states. Partition, therefore, is not only an instrument of conflict resolution but also a means of securing greater influence and political leverage in geostrategic regions of the world. On the Korean peninsula, the Soviet Union and the United States created proxies in North and South Korea. On Cyprus, an intense rivalry between Greece and Turkey split this tiny island into a modern Greek-supported state and a fledgling Turkish one, recognized only by the government in Ankara. And while armed conflict has not occurred in these areas for some time, the prospect of another Korean War or Greco-Turkish conflict remains. The Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas is the most heavily fortified border in the world, and Greece and Turkey continue to devote significant portions of their national budgets to defense expenditures.

Partition is also a potential solution to the ongoing conflict in Iraq, in which the country would be divided into separate Kurdish, Sunni, and Shiite governments. At the center of the discussion are commentators such as Leslie Gelb and Senator Joseph Biden (Delaware), who have proposed decentralizing Iraq into autonomous ethnically homogenous Kurdish, Sunni, and Shiite federations. The plan assumes that fundamental ethnic differences, particularly between Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites, are what is fueling the insurgency and pushing Iraq perilously close to total civil war. Gelb and other proponents of this plan argue that by allowing each group to control its own affairs, sectarian conflict would diminish and U.S. forces would be allowed to withdraw and redeploy in smaller numbers to avoid a long-term American military commitment in Iraq.

But like most partition plans, the Iraqi partition plan is both promising and problematic. Partition may succeed in separating warring groups and reducing sectarian strife, but the creation of independent Kurdish, Sunni, and Shiite states presents a host of other problems. A Kurdish state is guaranteed to upset Turkey, which has been engaged in an ongoing struggle against Kurdish separatists; a Sunni state would likely be a source of further tension as very little oil is located in the area, which would be allocated to Iraqs Sunnis; and finally, a Shiite state has the potential to become a radical theocracy aligned with Iran. Again, there are benefits to the solutions but there are also very dire and troublesome costs.

In the absence of more effective solutions, partition is often the only viable remedy remaining. Partition, though, is usually an insufficient method of conflict resolution because rather than reduce or eliminate conflict, it tends to exacerbate tensions. The purpose of conflict resolution, of which partition is a method, is to formulate a solution whose principal objective is to facilitate the cessation of further hostilities. Partition aims to resolve conflicts by separating opposing groups or factions that have demonstrated that they are incapable of coexisting within the same borders. But the employment of political division does not eliminate these problems as the architects of partition intend, but in many cases amplifies them.

SEE ALSO Communalism; Conflict; Decolonization; Ethnic Conflict; Ethnic Fractionalization; Ethnocentrism; Nationalism and Nationality; Negotiation; Peace; Secession; Separatism


Biden, Joseph R., and Leslie H. Gelb. 2006. Unity through Autonomy in Iraq. New York Times. May 1: sec. A, p. 2.

Collins, Larry, and Dominique Lapierre. 1988. O Jerusalem: Day by Day and Minute by Minute: The Struggle for Jerusalem and the Birth of Israel. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Collins, Larry, and Dominique Lapierre. 1997. Freedom at Midnight: The Epic Drama of Indias Struggle for Independence. New York: HarperCollins.

Kumar, Radha. 2003. Settling Partition Hostilities: Lesson Learnt, the Options Ahead. In Divided Countries, Separated Cities: The Modern Legacy of Partition, ed. Ghislaine Glasson Deschaumes and Rada Ivekovic. New Delhi: Oxford University.

Samaddar, Ranabir. 2003. The Last Hurrah that Continues. In Divided Countries, Separated Cities: The Modern Legacy of Partition, ed. Ghislaine Glasson Deschaumes and Rada Ivekovic. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Raymond Tanter

Nicholas Jakobson


views updated May 11 2018


Any division of real property orpersonal propertybetween co-owners, resulting in individual ownership of the interests of each.

The co-ownership of real and personal property can have many benefits to the parties. But when there is discord and the owners cannot agree on the use, improvement, or disposition of the property, all states have laws that permit the remedy of partition.

Most cases of partition involve real property. Persons can own property as tenants in common or joint tenants. As common owners of the property, they have equal rights in the use and enjoyment of the property. Partition statutes allow those who own property in common to sever their interests and take their individual share of the property.

Partition may be either voluntary or compulsory. Voluntary partition is when the cotenants (owners) divide the property themselves, usually by exchanging individual deeds. Each co-owner owns a part of the property and ceases to have an undivided interest in the whole. The parties can also provide for the sale of the property and divide the proceeds among themselves.

When the co-owners cannot agree on the value of the property and their rightful shares, they may select a disinterested third person, such as an arbitrator or an appraiser, to divide the property and to allot the shares. A voluntary partition by all the co-owners is legally effective unless there is a contractual challenge to its recognition. These challenges include allegations of fraud or unconscionability, or the allegation that the parties are seeking to defraud a third party by agreeing to the partition.

When the co-owners cannot agree to a voluntary partition, a lawsuit to compel partition can be filed to sever property interests. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, a tenant in common or a joint tenant has the absolute right to seek a compulsory partition. Partition must be made even if every other owner objects to it. The motives of the party seeking partition are irrelevant, and the court that hears the lawsuit has no discretion to deny partition. Its main function is to determine the method of executing the partition. Commonly the court will order the property sold and the proceeds divided, instead of ordering a physical partition of the property. If the title to the property is put into issue, most states permit the court to resolve this issue as well as the partition.

Both real and personal property can be subject to compulsory partition. Real property that can be subject to partition includes a building, a story of a building, the land on which a building rests, or the surface of land where there is an oil or gas lease.

Similarly, personal property can be subjected to compulsory partition. The fact that the property is owned in unequal shares does not affect the partition. The right has been enforced with respect to a cashier's check payable jointly to those who share a tenancy in common, promissory notes, shares of stock in a corporation, and stocks of merchandise.

further readings

Thomas, David A., ed. 1998. Thompson on Real Property. Charlottesville, Va.: LEXIS.


Joint Tenancy.


views updated Jun 27 2018

par·ti·tion / pärˈtishən; pər-/ • n. (esp. with reference to a country with separate areas of government) the action or state of dividing or being divided into parts: the country's partition into separate states. ∎  a structure dividing a space into two parts, esp. a light interior wall. ∎  Chem. the distribution of a solute between two immiscible or slightly miscible solvents in contact with one another, in accordance with its differing solubility in each. ∎  Comput. each of a number of portions into which some operating systems divide memory or storage.• v. [tr.] divide into parts: an agreement was reached to partition the country. ∎  divide (a room) into smaller rooms or areas by erecting partitions: the hall was partitioned to contain the noise of the computers. ∎  (partition something off) separate a part of a room from the rest by erecting a partition: partition off part of a large bedroom to create a small bathroom.DERIVATIVES: par·ti·tion·er n.par·ti·tion·ist / -ist/ n.


views updated May 29 2018

Partition ★★ 2007

Predictable historical romance/drama. Gian Singh (Mistry) is an ex-soldier from a Sikh regiment who fought for the Brits in WWII. In 1947, when India and Pakistan have become separate countries, Gian watches the violent upheavals from his Punjab village and then rescues Muslim refugee Naseem (Kruek) from an angry mob. The two fall in love and marry despite the religious complications but Naseem eventually hears word of her family in Pakistan and goes to see them. Her brothers are horrified that she's married an enemy and hold her prisoner, which causes more trouble when Gian travels to bring his wife home. 115m/C DVD . CA Jimi Mistry, Kristen Kreuk, Neve Campbell, John Light, Madhur Jaffrey, Irfan Khan, Jesse Moss; D: Vic Sarin; W: Vic Sarin, Patricia Finn; C: Vic Sarin; M: Brian Tyler.


views updated Jun 27 2018

partition action of dividing, orig. of property; (her.) division of a shield XV; division in general XVI. — (O)F. — L. partītiō, -ōn- f. partīrī divide, share, PART; see -ITION.
So partitive (gram.) XVI. — F. partitif or medL. partītīvus.


views updated Jun 11 2018

1. The term used in some operating systems to refer to a static area of memory for use by jobs, and also applied by association to the jobs executed in that area.

2. of a set. See covering.


views updated May 21 2018

1. Screen.

2. Non-loadbearing wall dividing a space into parts.


views updated May 11 2018

partition (Fr.). Score.