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Educated into Violence: The Colonial Origins of Separatist Rebellion

Sun, September 1, 10:00 to 11:30am, Hilton, DuPont


Periods of state wekness or political instability have been identified as opportune times for rebellion. This makes independence from the colonial power a fitting window of opportunity for separatists. Yet not all separatists take advantage of this time to rebel, even when they are organized and have the means. To explain variation in the onset of separtist rebellion, I argue that forms of education during the colonial period structure separatist perceptions during independence. Shallow education policies (e.g., the absence of centralized education at the local level) leave room for multiple ethnic identities by allowing for separate enrollment, language, and curriculum between ethnic groups. This makes it harder for leaders to recruit members behind a threat to identity during independence, thus delaying the onset of separatist rebellion. On the other hand, penetrative education policies replace ethnic identities in favor of a common one through compulsory enrollment, a lingua franca, and universal curriculum. These policies threaten local identities, thus making it easier for leaders to recruit members for rebellion. I compare two cases of separatist rebellion in Southeast Asia: the Karen, who rebel soon after Burmese independence, and the Moros, who rebel three decades after Philippine independence. I gather data from American, Spanish, and British archival records as well as interviews with Moro and Karen community leaders. This study challenges arguments linking education as a whole to peace by demonstrating that the particular process of education is significant in inhibiting or promoting violence.