Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster „Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration“

The dynamics of group conflicts in multinational multi-level systems – integration or accommodation?

Eva Maria Rhode (formerly involved: Bettina Petersohn)


The research project focuses on the politics of accommodating conflicts between distinct nations or cultural communities within one state. Conflicts arise from claims of national minorities for recognition of their distinctiveness in the constitution, for better representation in state-wide institutions, for an increase in legislative powers or even secession. The basic question therefore is how to balance unity with diversity and the integrity of the state with recognition of distinct communities. In consequence, negotiations are initiated between those actors representing the state and those representing the communities in order to tackle these questions.

Negotiations can be conducted according to two basic strategies of conflict regulation: integration or accommodation. While a strategy of integration recognises cultural diversity, the responsibility to preserve it rests with the members of the respective community. A strategy of accommodation, in comparison, allows for cultural differences to become visible in the public sphere. The role of the state differs within these strategies from granting equal, individual rights to securing the coexistence and survival of cultural differences within its territory.

Assuming that actors pursue their interests rationally, we expect national minorities and cultural communities to prefer an accommodating strategy while state-wide actors will follow a more integrationist approach. To provide an open and fair process of conflict resolution is one of the major current challenges for constitutional democracies: for it is the democratic quality of the process which determines (among other factors) the success of the accommodation policy. Comparing four cases of territorially concentrated minorities (Spain: Catalonia and Andalusia; UK: Scotland and Wales) the project analyses how the conflict over accommodating diverse interests is translated into negotiations and what kind of results and consequences these mutual claims and expectations produce over time.

Guiding questions

How can we reconstruct the processes and sequences of negotiations? When is the balancing of interests more likely and when might negotiations fail?

Under which conditions do negotiations result in mechanisms of integration or accommodation as a response to claims of territorially concentrated groups?

How can we assess the impact of contextual factors for the success of accommodating diversity? As institutional factors, we assume to be relevant the allocation of power, power-sharing institutions and the party system; as cultural factors we analyze the self-definition of the respective groups and the historical development of their relationships with other groups within the state.

What impact do economic circumstances and the financial crisis have on demands, negotiations and resulting policies of accommodation?

What kind of conclusions can we derive from the comparison for the long-term dynamics in multinational democracies?

Based on qualitative case studies and explorative comparative analyses, the project aims at developing theoretical explanations that contribute to the subject of conflict regulation and federal dynamics in multinational democracies.

New Policies of Accommodating Diversity

Challenges and Opportunities for Multilevel States

international conference
13–15 June 2013 (Thu–Sat)
University of Konstanz, Germany


Petersohn, Bettina; Behnke, Nathalie; Rhode, Eva M.: Negotiating territorial change in multinational states: Party preferences, negotiating power and the role of the negotiation mode. In: Publius: The Journal of Federalism, (2015). doi: 10.1093/publius/pjv016