In This Review

Pax Ethnica: Where and How Diversity Succeeds
Pax Ethnica: Where and How Diversity Succeeds
By Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac
PublicAffairs, 2012, 304 pp

In Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East, and South Asia, troubled countries have been torn apart by seemingly intractable struggles among hostile religious, ethnic, and sectarian groups. In the public imagination, such conflicts are deeply rooted in “ancient hatreds” or inevitable “clashes of civilizations.” In this engaging book, two veteran journalists challenge that popular narrative by examining places around the world where diverse peoples have found ways to live together peacefully: from the Indian state of Kerala, where Hindus, Muslims, and Christians have prospered together; to the Russian republic of Tatarstan, where the Muslim majority has lived peacefully with the Orthodox Christian minority; to the borough of Queens, in New York City, where a dizzying array of ethnic, religious, and language groups coexist. The book is a sort of travelogue, laced with local histories and colorful personalities. But it lacks a unifying argument about why some diverse places thrive and others erupt in violence. Capable political leadership appears to help, as does a shared sense of citizenship, complete with rights and protections. Alas, those insights are only faintly present in the book.