Dynamics of disintegration: diaspora, secession and the paradox of nation-states

Yossi Shain, Martin Sherman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The underlying logic of an international system based on nation-states should lead to the gradual elimination of trans-national loyalties, intra-national divisions and stateless communities. Paradoxically, current realities indicate that the reverse is true, with these phenomena becoming more and more prevalent. The article proposes a comprehensive analytical framework for the study of the complex relationships between diaspora formation, secessionist (and irredentist) drives and the existing nation-state system. It traces the genesis and the subsequent effects of differing variants of diaspora formations and secession (irredentist) movements to the interplay between two distinct independent variables: (1) the formation and disintegration of different nation-types (ethno-focal or ideo-focal); and (2) the modus operandi of different regime-types (libertarian or authoritarian). The processes produced by these interactions generate a perennial source for the rejuvenation of old identities and the awakening of new ones, which in turn constitute an incessant challenge to the prevailing state system. Thus rather than becoming an anomalous anachronism of the past, diasporas and separatist sentiments appear to be not only an endemic feature of the international system, but a pivotal element in comprehending the direction of present and future trends in it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-346
Number of pages26
JournalNations and Nationalism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1998


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