Varshney's book is more than commentary; it is research that meets or exceeds scientific standards for social science. It is positive, even marvelous, in its guidance for achieving peaceful co-existence. Varshney's dramatic observation is that ethnic integration in all facets of society is the key to harmony. This single observation goes far in explaining the differences in rates of violence between Washington DC, Detroit, or Baltimore on one hand and Honolulu or El Paso on the other.
Varshney's synthesis is a landmark, based on valid scientific research of novel and practical design. Theorists and activists alike can learn from him. He does not go into the human psyche for answers, he goes into the field and observes what works. He does not duck tough religious issues. Rather, he studied them and found one key to communal peace was building Hindu-Muslim contacts in an organized way and around issues of common concern. Once a relationship of trust developed it was often easy for each side to embrace the other and help stop communal strife. At the same time, Varshney recognizes that ethnic peace is not desirable if all it does is keep one group down and disadvantaged--the potential for violence is still there. Ethnic peace in Varshney's context means an absence of violence, not an absence of conflict. Some conflict is natural; being open about it is helpful for it allows groups to negotiate and manage their differences. In other words, let's celebrate our differences as we work through to solutions.
Publisher's note. Varshney's primary findings happen to be consistent with ours; each provides support for the other. It is a wonderful companion piece to this site. Varshney presents what works on practical and national levels; we provide the individual and social genetic/psychic underpinnings. It is not that simple of course; further research along with action will be needed.
Posted by RoadToPeace on Wednesday, July 20, 2005.