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The Politics of Nation-Building
Making Co-Nationals, Refugees, and Minorities

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Part of Problems of International Politics

  • Date Published: February 2013
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107661998

$ 31.99 (G)

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About the Authors
  • What drives a state's choice to assimilate, accommodate, or exclude ethnic groups within its territory? In this innovative work on the international politics of nation-building, Harris Mylonas argues that a state's nation-building policies toward non-core groups – any aggregation of individuals perceived as an ethnic group by the ruling elite of a state – are influenced by both its foreign policy goals and its relations with the external patrons of these groups. Through a detailed study of the Balkans, Mylonas shows that how a state treats a non-core group within its own borders is determined largely by whether the state's foreign policy is revisionist or cleaves to the international status quo, and whether it is allied or in rivalry with that group's external patrons. Mylonas injects international politics into the study of nation-building, building a bridge between international relations and the comparative politics of ethnicity and nationalism. This is the first book to explain systematically how the politics of ethnicity in the international arena determine which groups are assimilated, accommodated, or annihilated by their host states.

    • The first book that systematically explores the effects of external involvement on nation-building policies toward non-core groups
    • Makes three innovative conceptual moves: from the misused term 'minority' to 'non-core group'; from focusing on 'homelands' as the external actor to the more inclusive concept 'external power'; and, from the dichotomous - and narrow - conceptualization of policies 'inclusion/exclusion' or 'violent/non-violent' to 'assimilation, accommodation, and exclusion'
    • Exhaustively documents nation-building policies in the post-WWI Balkans and uses both historical and political science methodologies to analyze them
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    • Winner of the 2014 European Studies Book Award, Council for European Studies

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Mylonas deftly combines quantitative analysis of cross-national data with an in-depth study of policies toward non-core groups in Greek Macedonia and provides impressive evidence to support his theoretical propositions. Summing up: recommended. Graduate, research, and professional collections.' A. Paczynska, Choice

    'Mylonas highlights a hitherto understudied aspect of minority policy making in the Balkans: whether newly nationalizing states tolerated, assimilated, or forcibly removed ethnic minorities from their territories crucially depended on whether or not these minorities were supported by other states and whether these other states were allies or enemies. Combining broad statistical analysis with detailed archival research, the book puts the international aspects of domestic nation-building into sharp relief.' Andreas Wimmer, Princeton University

    'There is much to praise in this book. To begin with, Mylonas is one of those rare scholars who adopt a sophisticated positivist methodology that combines large analysis with a detailed knowledge of (some) historical cases obtained through patient archival research. Second, while much scholarship discusses two policy options (inclusion or exclusion), Mylonas interestingly broadens the analysis to include three policies - assimilation, accommodation and exclusion - producing, respectively, co-nationals, minorities and refugees. And, third, in an age of liberal interventionism Mylonas advances sober and thoughtful recommendations on how the international community may be able to diminish the recurrence of crimes of mass atrocity by intervening less, not more.' Roberto Belloni, Buchbesprechungen

    ‘The core of the argument is that the international system plays a key role in determining the types of policies that states pursue as part of their nation building strategies. Mylonas makes several theoretical moves that each constitute a major contribution to our understanding of nation-building policies … Mylonas' book is destined to influence future scholarship on nation-building policies, not just in the Balkans but throughout the world.’ Dmitry Gorenburg, Harvard University

    ‘Harris Mylonas is one of the rare scholars who combine sophisticated knowledge of political science techniques with in-depth historical expertise. This book will be of great interest to political scientists, international relations scholars, and historians, and it will also be a valuable resource for policy makers. Most of the events it discusses happened a century or more ago, but the repercussions from those events are still very much in evidence in the Balkans today.’ Mark Kramer, Harvard University

    ‘Through thorough analysis of archival records and integration of theory from both international relations and comparative politics, Harris Mylonas argues that external factors often override internal factors in the formation of nationality policy. In contrast to more common approaches, Mylonas concentrates on the processes underlying nationality policy formation. He persuasively shows how elite perceptions of international threats shape such decisions.’ Roger D. Petersen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    ‘This book makes an important, original argument about the international factors that exert substantial influence on a state's decision to assimilate, accommodate, or exclude its ethnic minorities. Based mainly on analytic comparisons of case histories of Balkan nation building, Mylonas shows that states are much more likely to exclude, expel, or exterminate such groups when they receive backing from foreign enemy states and when the host state is a dissatisfied power harboring a grievance over lost territory. Many readers will find Mylonas's insights to be of great interest.’ Jack Snyder, Columbia University

    ‘In The Politics of Nation-Building, Harris Mylonas shows the direction to which the next generation of researchers might turn … Mylonas is not only a good historian, capable of conjugating the microlevel of everyday life with shifting macrohistorical structures. He also proves himself a virtuoso political scientist, capable of formulating fruitful puzzles and illuminating hypotheses where all might seem so painfully familiar … The result is a richly textured and compelling analytical narrative that supports the main argument of the book.’ Georgi Derluguian, New York University Abu Dhabi

    ‘The Politics of Nation-Building by Harris Mylonas distinguishes itself on several dimensions. It addresses an important question at the intersection of international and comparative politics by productively combining insights from theories of Comparative Politics and International Relations and by reformulating key concepts in the study of nation-building … Mylonas fashions creative hypotheses linking these elements and tests them on a body of rich empirical material; his analysis is sophisticated, subtle, and insightful.’ The Katzenstein Prize committee

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2013
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107661998
    • length: 280 pages
    • dimensions: 234 x 155 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.41kg
    • contains: 20 b/w illus. 11 maps 20 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    Part I. Theory:
    2. The international politics of assimilation, accommodation, and exclusion
    Part II. Empirical Evidence:
    3. Why the Balkans?
    4. Cross-national variation: nation-building in post-World War I Balkans
    5. Odd cases: analysis of outliers
    6. Subnational variation: Greek nation-building in western Macedonia, 1916–20
    7. Temporal variation: Serbian nation-building toward Albanians, 1878–1941
    8. Application of the theory beyond the Balkans
    9. Conclusion.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Nation and Globe
    • Nation-Building in the Balkans
    • Seminar in Rgimes and Regime Change
    • State Building in Middle East
    • U.S. Foreign Policy and/or Politics of Europe
  • Author

    Harris Mylonas, George Washington University, Washington DC
    Harris Mylonas' research focuses on the processes of nation- and state-building, the politicization of cultural differences, immigration policy, and political development. He completed his Ph.D. at Yale University in 2008 and then joined the Political Science department at George Washington University as an Assistant Professor in the fall of 2009. He is also an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies where he conducted research during the 2008–9 and 2011–12 academic years. His work has been published in Security Studies, Comparative Political Studies, Ethnopolitics, the European Journal of Political Research, and various edited volumes. He has also published opinion pieces in international newspapers and magazines (Los Angeles Times,,, Newsweek Japan, and the Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review, among others). He is currently working on his second book project - tentatively entitled The Politics of Ethnic Return Migration - analyzing the policies that states develop either to attract and/or to incorporate people returning to their country of origin, allegiance, or citizenship.


    • Winner of the 2014 European Studies Book Award, Council for European Studies
    • Winner of the 2013 Peter Katzenstein Book Prize, Cornell University
    • Honourable Mention, 2014 Joseph Rothschild Prize in Nationalism and Ethnic Studies, Association for the Study of Nationalities

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