Blaze Joel is a Ph.D. student in the History Department at the University of California Berkeley. His research focuses on nationalism, memory, violence, and national identity in twentieth-century Europe. He studies these issues in the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland, and the Basque Country, as well as in an international, trans-European framework. He also studies the Cold War in a global perspective.
Joel is a recipient of the 2021 IIS Simpson Research Grant.
My dissertation explores the persistence of exclusivist ethno-national conceptions of identity in four ethnically-mixed societies in twentieth-century Europe that experienced interethnic violence centering on the question of the state – Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Ireland, and the Basque Country. Today, all of these societies remain physically and socially divided with entrenched mistrust between groups, despite the fact that the violence has subsided and the nature of each group’s relationship to the state is no longer in question. Integrating approaches used in historical, anthropological, and political science research, my comparative study of the former Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland, and the Basque Country before, during, and after the breakup of Yugoslavia, the Troubles, and the Spanish-Basque Conflict will seek to answer the following questions: How do exclusive ethno-nationalist conceptions of identity develop? Why did they produce violence in these cases? How and why has a sense of radical distinctiveness that precludes other forms of non- or supra-ethnic identity for both oneself and others been maintained in the post-conflict era? Finally, is the social division that persists today a product of the conditions before the conflict, the dynamics of the violence that occurred, or the continued nation building efforts of each group after the conflict has ended?