Bonnie M. Meguid's Party Competition between Unequals: Strategies and Electoral Fortunes in Western Europe offers a rigorous theory and fresh data to explain the relative fortunes of Europe's new single-issue political parties (green, radical right, and ethnoterritorial parties). In contrast to existing works and theories, Meguid makes parties and party competition the centerpiece of her explanation. She shows that dominant mainstream parties enhance or diminish the electoral performance of niche parties in order to strengthen their own position and weaken the standing of their opponents. Niche parties like the Greens in Belgium are likely to perform especially well when the established parties that they threaten hesitate and react too slowly to their issues due to their own internal divisions or lack of centralized organization. Meguid convincingly tests her theory with cross-sectional time-series data and carefully selected case studies. This innovative study furthermore shows that niche parties not only lead mainstream parties to react by shifting their own policy objectives, but also by altering the very institutions that structure party competition.
Mark I. Choate's Emigrant Nation: The Making of Italy Abroad explores the Italian government's effort to sponsor a transnational Greater Italy during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Using a range of archival sources, the work richly illustrates the ways in which the Italian state supported its vital interests and upheld national culture through an imagined global nation that included millions of recent emigrants. Choate's findings suggest that Italy's colonial project not only involved regions in Africa, but also incorporated ethnic communities in cities such as New York, where emigrants maintained cultural, religious, and economic ties to Italy. Furthermore, he shows how the flow of influence was not unidirectional: the emigrant communities shaped the Italian state's policy and even its understanding of itself. This fascinating work of history has important lessons for thinking about transnational communities today ranging from Mexico to the Philippines.
Todd Shepard (Department of History, Temple University) was the 2008 recipient of the CES Book Award for his book, The Invention of Decolonization: The Algerian War and the Remaking of France (Cornell University Press), a analysis of how the war in Algeria and efforts to resolve the issues it raised were crucial to the making of the Fifth Republic. Shepard convincingly reveals the war´s crucial role in recasting definitions of French identity and citizenship, which arguably continue to shape current debates about racial inequality, exclusion, assimilation, immigration and the place of Islam in France.
Chip Gagnon for The Myth of Ethnic War: Serbia and Croatia in the 1990s. In the last ten years, Serbia and Croatia have become reference points for virtually all scholars who wish to analyze ethnic conflict either in Eastern Europe or in other parts of the world. Chip Gagnon who had visited the former Yugoslavia in the early 1980s found the outbreak of ethnic hatred and violence in this area in the 1990s puzzling. He saw the area as one rich in civil society with the potential for democratic cooperation once the Communist regime had fallen. Based on extensive field work and documentary evidence collected in the 1990s, Gagnon's Myth of Ethnic War makes the counter-intuitive claim that ethnic hatred and violence was not based upon the mobilization of primordial blood rivalries, but rather on the demobilization of collectivities that were poised to modernize the country given the historical opportunity. Political and economic elites in Belgrade and Zagreb created and manipulated violent conflict along ethnic lines to short circuit political and economic change in the early 1990s. Carefully argued, meticulously researched, Gagnon not only adds to previous historical accounts of conflict in the region, but also extends political cultural approaches to the study of politics by showing the demobilization is as important a component of constructivist accounts as mobilization.
Francine Hirsch for Empire of Nations: Ethnographic Knowledge and the Making of the Soviet Union. Francine Hirsch's Empire of Nations examines how the Bolsheviks carved a Soviet Union out of a disparate group of national territorial entities. Applying an approach more recently used in studies of democratic nation state building, Hirsh shows how the Bolsheviks went about integrating a national idea into an administrative territorial structure of the new Soviet State. By focusing upon this forced fusion of nation and state that occurred in the Bolshevik period she also manages to account for the fragility of the national idea when the Soviet Union broke apart in the 1990s. Unique to her account is her focus upon the role of former imperial ethnographers and local historians, who created accounts of the diverse peoples of the USSR as bed rock of the new Soviet Empire, an empire without imperialism. Hirsch marshals an impressive array of evidence that she skillfully deploys to construct an argument that is elegant in its nuance and forceful in its central claims. The overall effect of Empire of Nation is stunning and the analysis not only extends our knowledge of the former Soviet Union but also offers important insights to present political realities and the study of empire more generally.