From cartoons of Muhammad in a Danish newspaper to displays of the Confederate battle flag over the South Carolina statehouse, acts of cultural significance have set off political conflicts and sometimes violence. These and other expressions and enactments of culture–whether in music, graffiti, sculpture, flag displays, parades, religious rituals, or film–regularly produce divisive and sometimes prolonged disputes. What is striking about so many of these conflicts is their emotional intensity, despite the fact that in many cases what is at stake is often of little material value. Why do people invest so much emotional energy and resources in such conflicts? What is at stake, and what does winning or losing represent? The answers to these questions are explored in Culture and Belonging in Divided Societies.
Editor Marc Ross is William Rand Kenan, Jr., Professor of Political Science at Bryn Mawr College, and co-director of the Solomon Asch Center. He is author or editor of seven books, including Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict (2008, Cambridge University Press).