All posts by gdula

Reflection on Duerr’s Secessionism in the European Union

Chapter 5 of Glenn Duerr’s Secessionism in the European Union covers the Scottish National Party (SNP) in Scotland. The SNP was founded in 1934 and began gaining momentum as a party following the discovery of oil in the North Sea (81). The party then began to win more elections, winning more seats in the British House of Commons, European Parliament, and Scottish Parliament (82). While membership fell in the 1990s, it has since been growing following the 2014 referendum for Scottish independence, in which 45% voted in favor of independence (77).

The SNP’s movement for independence is particularly nuanced. First, though many Scottish voters support the SNP, they do not all support independence (78). Furthermore, there is some debate over what exactly constitutes Scottish values (79). This is complicated by the fact that Scotland is one of several subnational units within the UK, whose divisions are reinforced by differences in religious holidays, as well as sports (79-80). Despite this, many people (including tennis icon Andy Murray, for example) claim both Scottish and British identities (79-80). Also, identity is even more difficult to pin down due to the fluidity with which people can move across the UK, meaning that identities across subnational units can be mixed and therefore bind people across the UK together (80). Further complicating this is the fact that there has been a change of demography since World War II, with an increase in immigrant communities and people of color living in Scotland (81). Given these factors, Duerr says that the UK can most accurately be considered a multinational state (81).

The SNP is typically characterized as a postmodern nationalist movement, in which territory and identity are not nearly as important as policy choices (78). However, there are concerns that there is still a potentially harmful ethnic component to the movement. Duerr argues that the case for civic nationalism needs to be made more strongly in order to show that the movement is truly inclusive of a more diverse interpretation of Scottish identity (78). This is particularly important given the substantial South Asian and Afro-Carribean immigrant communities that have developed in Scotland in the post-World War II era (81). According to research presented by Duerr, the SNP discusses issues of economics and political autonomy far more than immigration, culture, or language, and economics and political autonomy are given as the primary reason for secession, rather than culture (85-6). Based on statements made by the SNP in these policy areas, they can be categorized as “mostly civic/mixed,” as there are some issues, such as ambivalence toward joining important EU institutions and a lack of diversity in the party, that prevent it from being considered fully civic (99). However, the party has moved more towards civic nationalism over time due to increase diversity in Scottish society (100). Overall, Duerr says that the civically-framed issue of independence will likely remain on the political agenda, as the SNP seems unlikely to lose significant support in the near future (100).

Given the events that have occurred since this book was published in 2015, I think it is likely that the SNP will continue to gain members and momentum and that the push for independence may become more popular, even among those who may have previously supported the SNP but not independence. In the Brexit referendum, a majority of Scottish voters voted “Remain,” which makes sense given their economic interests. Since a majority of Scots disagree with the outcome of Brexit, and considering the SNP’s focus on issues of economics and political autonomy, this may result in increased popularity for secession, or for more devolution at the very least.

Upstate New York Introduction and Project Contract Draft

Introduction

Timeline:
1777 – upper portion of upstate NY secedes
1791- seceded portion becomes the State of Vermont
1962 and 1964 – precedent of “one man, one vote” established
2013 – Stephan Hawley introduces a bill that would allow each NYS county to provide feedback for possible secession

Currently, there are various groups calling for upstate secession, with various amounts of cohesion. Upstate New Yorkers claim that they have been adversely affected by policies created by New York City politicians, causing them economic and social hardship. Some have called for New York State to be split up into New York (downstate) and New Amsterdam (upstate). One of the largest disputes among various secession groups is where to classify upstate and downstate. Some say the southern border of New Amsterdam should stretch horizontally from Pennsylvania, while others say that New Amsterdam should encompass everything except Long Island and the NYC Metro Area. The biggest actors currently are: NewAmsterdamny.com, UpstateNYSecede, State Senator Joseph Robach, and Assemblyman Stephan Hawley.

While the upstate New York secessionist movement is not based on ethnic identity, upstate New Yorkers share a cultural identity based on shared history as well as political, economic, and demographic factors. Upstate New Yorkers generally also share political and economic interests, which provides both cultural unity within upstate as well as significant reasons to break away from downstate. Upstate tends to be a blend of conservatives and moderate liberals. Also, Upstate New Yorkers share certain economic concerns, such as the loss of manufacturing jobs and the flight of businesses that once were central to upstate New York’s economy. Upstate New Yorkers in favor of secession believe that NYC, which is more liberal and has economic interests that are quite distinct from those of upstate, has too much influence in Albany. They argue that this negatively affects upstate, particularly by pushing a more liberal agenda and passing regulations that are driving business out of upstate, resulting in decreasing economic opportunity and freedom. The strategy of upstate New York secessionists is mainly based around amending the NYS Constitution. To do this, the proposal for a NYS Constitutional Convention on the 2017 ballot would need to be passed, and delegates who will support the amendment that would split New York into two different states would have to be elected.

Project Contract

Mission Statement and Goals

In our project, we are tracking the upstate New York secession movement, from the founding of New York State to the present. We are hoping to provide a comprehensive, easily navigated, website that would consolidate information about various upstate NY secessionist groups and their motivators.

We will start by looking at the history of upstate NY secession, by looking briefly at the Vermont secession. Then we will proceed to making a timeline about the movement and tracking it through history. We will focus a lot on the specific grievances presented by upstate NY secessionists and how they evolved over time, specifically since we are dealing with a movement that related to politico-economic grievances. We will end by looking at the current status of the movement, putting emphasis on the various groups currently engaged in upstate secession activism and the legislators in the NYS assembly and senate with upstate NY secession on their agendas. Finally, we will look at the future of the NYS secession movement by researching the upcoming NYS constitutional convention and efforts made by secessionist groups to influence constitution writing.

Our goals are primarily to consolidate information on one database, since there are currently many web pages, news articles, and social media pages dedicated to various upstate NY secession movements. We are trying to feature a hyperlink heavy site that will lead our readers to the original page of ongoing secessionist movements. Colloquially, we are trying to be the Wikipedia of upstate-NY secession research. Our audience will be primarily college students in this course, our professors, and future employers who might want an example our our technical skills. We will also try to make our site accessible to those looking for research about upstate secession and activists hoping to find information and link up to groups using our page.

Basic Site Structure and Intended Features

Our site will consist of multiple sections with different focuses. We will have a homepage with a brief overview and pictures. There will also be an “about us” section where we talk about the class and ourselves. A page or section will be devoted to the history of the movement, including the Vermont secession, relevant court cases, and relevant past legislation. This may be where we put a timeline of events. There will be another section to address more current aspects of the movement. This will include pages on individual actors, group actors, legislation, and strategy.

Tools

For our WordPress site, we will use one of the themes that readily displays pages and subpages. We plan on incorporating interactive elements into our website, including a timeline and a map. For the timeline, we will use TimelineJS. For the map, we will use StorymapJS and/or GIS. We will use Canva graphic design software to edit images. If we get a chance to do a formal interview with legislators involved in the movement, we may use some kind of audio editing; however, this is very conditional.

Schedule

  • February 13th – initial visit to Livingston County Historical Society for inquiry regarding possible information about upstate secession  (Maria)
  • February 17th – reach out to several key legislators who have sponsored bills regarding upstate NY secession in the past (Maria)
  • February 18th – Website map, homepage, and about us page (Rachel)
  • February 24th – meet in person again and go over contract edits (Rachel + Maria)
  • February 27th – first draft of timeline (Maria) and storymap (Rachel)
  • March 1st – final contract due
  • March 6th – Revised timeline and storymap, and bibliography of secondary materials to be consulted (Maria + Rachel)
  • March 10th – March 19th – Work on individual pages (to be decided and divided up at a later time)
  • March 23rd – meet and go over website draft (Rachel + Maria)
  • March 27th – first draft of website due
  • March 27th – April 24th – meet weekly to consolidate individual progress
  • April 24th – website must be completed (Rachel + Maria)
  • April 25th – GREAT Day presentation

Reflection on “Protestant” from Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegone Days

In this excerpt from the novel Lake Wobegone Days by Garrison Keillor, the narrator describes parts of his childhood growing up in Minnesota as a member of a very small Protestant group known as the Sanctified Brethren. The Brethren were originally formed when they broke away from the Anglican Church in 1865 because they wanted to “worship on the basis of correct principles” (130). They were also against the ostentatiousness and corruption of the Anglican Church. This split and the way it is described in the novel suggest a few aspects of religion that are most important to the Brethren, including worshipping correctly in the eyes of God, having a full and accurate understanding of scripture, and determining and following the right doctrine. The narrator describes the Brethren as intensely scholarly, which clearly connects to these aspects of religion that are held dear by the Brethren. This intense scholarship is also the reason given by the narrator for the many subsequent splits within the original group of Brethren, which eventually broke into three main branches with many other tiny subgroups.

The Brethren seem to see themselves as a return to the true Christian tradition. Unlike the Lutherans and Catholics in town, who the Brethren view as showy and potentially immoral, the Brethren emphasize modesty, humility, and simplicity and focus on individual connection with God. According to the Brethren, “Christians do not go in for show” (128). Furthermore, prayer is viewed as a personal conversation with God, not something to be recited or read. As the narrator’s grandfather says, “If a man can’t remember what he wants to say to God, let him sit down and think a little harder” (126). The focus on a small, committed group and simple, individual worship illustrates the Brethren’s opinion of what religion should be. This is further illustrated in a passage from the Bible cited by the narrator: “Where two or three are gathered, there I am in the midst of them” (126).

Given the Brethren’s insistence on simplicity, absolute clarity of doctrine, and an individual relationship with God, it makes sense that they formed out of a separatist movement and then separated into more and more groups. Their scholarliness coupled with their devotion to finding and following the correct way to worship and behave likely played a part in their many separations, as they would thus be unwilling to compromise on doctrine or allow for disagreements within the group. The focus on an individual relationship also seems to lend itself to much smaller religious groups. Reading this excerpt, I was interested how this separatist movement could fit into Sorens’ qualifications for secessionist groups. Obviously there is a clear group identity present for the Brethren, but their interests in breaking away seem more spiritual than political or economic and are thus less tangible than what Sorens describes.

Upstate New York Secession Proposal

The secessionist movements of upstate New York have a long history. In 1777, an upper portion of New York successfully seceded during the American Revolution and officially became the state of Vermont in 1791. Since then, various movements from upstate New York have been formed around the basis that upstate New York should secede from downstate.

The most pressing reasons are presented to be political. Baker v Carr (1962) and Reynolds v Sims (1964) established the precedent of “one man, one vote” giving New York City (NYC), a small portion of New York State (NYS) which holds a significant percentage of the population, political influence in both state and national legislatures. Most recently, in February 2013, Assemblyman Stephen Hawley introduced a bill that would allow each county in NYS to provide feedback regarding a possible partition.

Currently, there are various groups calling for upstate secession, with various amounts of cohesion. Upstate New Yorkers claim that they have been adversely affected by policies created by New York City politicians, causing them economic and social hardship. Some have called for New York State to be split up into New York (downstate) and New Amsterdam (upstate). One of the largest disputes among various secession groups is where to classify upstate and downstate. Some say the southern border of New Amsterdam should stretch horizontally from Pennsylvania, while others say that New Amsterdam should encompass everything except Long Island and the NYC Metro Area

Secessionist groups are wishing to secede from New York State. Currently, there is a demographic divide between downstate and upstate New York. While downstate NY occupies roughly 4,000 square miles, it houses over 12 million people, while upstate stretches across 54,000 square miles while only housing 7 million. The economic differences are also important to note. Downstate residents have a GDP per capita of $71,181 while upstate residents have a GDP per capita of 51,807, below the US average GDP per capita of 53,041. Demographically, downstate NY has a higher percentage of non-white minorities and immigrants, while upstate NY tends to be more Caucasian and house generational families.

While the upstate New York secessionist movement is not based on ethnic identity, upstate New Yorkers share a cultural identity based on shared history as well as political, economic, and demographic factors. As mentioned before, upstate New Yorkers are mostly Caucasian and are not recent immigrants, and they have a shared history dating back to the colonial period, when much of upstate was not yet part of New York State. Upstate New Yorkers generally also share political and economic interests, which provides both cultural unity within upstate as well as significant reasons to break away from downstate. Upstate tends to be a blend of conservatives and moderate liberals. Also, Upstate New Yorkers share certain economic concerns, such as the loss of manufacturing jobs and the flight of businesses that once were central to upstate New York’s economy. Upstate New Yorkers in favor of secession believe that NYC, which is more liberal and has economic interests that are quite distinct from those of upstate, has too much influence in Albany. They argue that this negatively affects upstate, particularly by pushing a more liberal agenda and passing regulations that are driving business out of upstate, resulting in decreasing economic opportunity and freedom. The strategy of upstate New York secessionists is mainly based around amending the NYS Constitution. To do this, the proposal for a NYS Constitutional Convention on the 2017 ballot would need to be passed, and delegates who will support the amendment that would split New York into two different states would have to be elected.

On our website, we would like to examine this movement’s history, including its origins, motives, and strategy, and make our research on this topic accessible to the public. We plan on including interactive elements, such as a timeline to show the movement’s history and a map of New York State districts.

Relfection on Sorens’ Secessionism

In Secessionism, Jason Sorens provides definitions of both secession and secessionism. Secession, he says, “is the withdrawal of territory and the people living on that territory from the sovereignty of an existing state and the establishment of a newly independent state with sovereignty over that territory and its people” (Sorens 3). He defines secessionism as including “movements that aim at substantial territorial autonomy for a minority group and do not rule out independence in the future” (Sorens 5). A full definition of a secessionist movement, then, is an organization that supports at least internal sovereignty over some territory it wishes to possess and that does not oppose the eventual possibility of external sovereignty (Sorens 9). Sorens points out that while actual secession itself is rare, secessionist groups and movements are not and can have important effects on the countries in which they arise (Sorens 3). These are all important and thorough definitions that form the framework of some of Soren’s later claims, which address issues of identity, interest, and strategy in secessionist movements.

One key claim made by Sorens is that it is a combination of identity and interest that lead to a popular desire for independence among a certain group (Sorens 6). While culturally distinctive groups are a necessary element for secessionist movements, as Sorens explains in the section on identity, there must be some net benefit that makes secession a better option, in the eyes of the majority of the group, than negotiating and seeking improvement within the current system of government (Sorens 30). These benefits can include cultural, economic, and political factors (Sorens 30). So, secessionism requires cultural difference plus economic and political benefits of sovereignty in order to become a serious political option (Sorens 31). While this may seem an obvious point, it is not always specifically addressed in the field of International Relations, where differences in ethnicity itself is sometimes positioned as the impetus for conflicts with secessionist components. This formula might also explain why some ethnic conflicts involve secessionism while others do not.

Another interesting argument made by Sorens is that “a constitutional right of secession would substantially decrease ethnic violence… without significantly increasing the risks of actual state breakup” and would “result in widespread devolution of power, allowing minorities to obtain rights of self-government in the areas most important to them” (Sorens 8). He adds later that groups feel less secure about their future in countries where secession is prohibited, and where they don’t have as much influence on government policy (Sorens 42). Because of this combination (prohibition of secession with feelings of insecurity and powerlessness), there are fewer actual secessionist movements, but latent support for secession is higher, as the net benefits of independence are higher (Sorens 41-2). In this way, Sorens says, banning secession can actually promote secessionism (Sorens 46). It is for these reasons that he argues that governments should not prohibit secession, but rather protect it as a right. This argument, while complicated and seemingly counterintuitive, did make sense to me in some ways. If nothing else, minority groups in states that recognize secession as a right might be able to use secession as a kind of bargaining chip in negotiations for limited regional autonomy or to force the central government to recognize and address other specific concerns of theirs.

Introduction

Hi everyone! My name is Rachel Gdula and I am from Syracuse, New York. I am a junior at SUNY Geneseo where I am majoring in International Relations. I am excited to take this class and learn more about secessionist and separatist movements in the United States, which, being an IR major, I don’t have much opportunity to study in my regular courses. I am also eager to develop my skills with digital tools, and learn more about how to use these tools to make information and academic research more accessible to the public. Looking forward to working with all of you!