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Anti-Immigrant Violence and Organized Crime in Italy

By Martin W. Lewis | January 12, 2010 | One Comment

On January 10, 2009, the front page of the New York Times carried an article entitled “Race Riots Grip Italian Town and Mafia Is Suspect.” In two days of violence, 53 people were injured, including 18 members of the police, 14 local residents, and 21 immigrants. Most of the immigrants involved in the riots were

Bad News and Good News for Tigers

By Martin W. Lewis | |

On December 22, 2009, the BBC reported that a Chinese man was sentenced to twelve years in prison for killing and eating an Indochinese tiger, perhaps the last of its kind living in China. The man, Kang Wannian, claimed that the tiger had attacked him while he was gathering freshwater clams in a

Burma Takes on the United Wa State Army

By Martin W. Lewis | January 11, 2010 |

As recently mentioned in this blog, James C. Scott’s new book The Art of Not Being Governed is essential reading on the history of state-level sovereignty. As Scott brilliantly shows, pre-colonial states in Southeast Asia, and much of the rest of the world, actually governed relatively small areas. Our conventional

Where is Zomia?

By Martin W. Lewis | January 8, 2010 | One Comment

Conventional geographical units of any kind often lead the imagination along set pathways. Originality of thought can therefore be be enhanced by the creation of novel regionalization schemes. One of the more intriguing new regions to be proposed in recent years is Zomia, a term coined by historian Willem van Schendel in 2002, and expanded

Belize Vs. Guatemala

By Martin W. Lewis | |

A major controversy engulfed the small Central American country of Belize in early January 2010 after its foreign minister, Wilifred Erlington, described the border between his country and Guatemala as “artificial.” Enraged Belizean nationalists denounced Erlington as a “sell-out,” while opposition leaders demanded his resignation.

The Marshall Islands and the U.S.

By Martin W. Lewis | January 7, 2010 |

The Marshall Islands is a sovereign state in the Pacific Ocean, recognized as such by its fellow members of the United Nations. But the Marshall Islands forms an unusual country in several regards. Its population is small (62,000) and its land area meager (70 square miles), yet its tiny atolls spread across a vast swath

Pre-Trianon Hungary

By Martin W. Lewis | January 6, 2010 |

Pertaining to the post below, the map shows the diminution of Hungary that occurred after the signing of the Treat of Trianon, while the dual images show the use of the pre-Trianon map as a political icon

Language and Voting In Romania

By Martin W. Lewis | | One Comment

As the previous post indicated, many Hungarian-populated areas lie outside of Hungary’s national borders. More than half of Hungary’s territory was stripped away in the post-WWI settlement, although most of the areas lost had non-Hungarian majorities. Hard-core Magyar (or Hungarian) nationalists who dream of reclaiming these lands often advertise their views by displaying maps of

Vojvodina: Europe’s Newest Old Autonomous Region

By Martin W. Lewis | January 5, 2010 | 4 Comments

In late 2009 Europe gained a new autonomous region when Serbia granted its northern area of Vojvodinia control over its own regional development, agriculture, tourism, transportation, health care, mining, and energy. Vojvodina, population two million, will even gain representation in the European Union (although it will be allowed to sign only regional agreements, not international ones)

The Northern Areas Become Gilgit-Baltistan

By Martin W. Lewis | January 4, 2010 | 2 Comments

The former princely state of Kashmir is one of the world’s most contested territories (see map). During the British colonial period, Kashmir was ruled by a Hindu Maharaja (under British “advisement”) even though its population was (and is) mostly Muslim. The political partition of British India into the independent states of India and

The Country of Greenland

By Martin W. Lewis | January 3, 2010 | One Comment

There is no single, unambiguous term in the English language to denote the sovereign entities that form the bedrock of the global political system. We often call them “nations,” but strictly speaking a “nation” is a group of people who either have or aspire to have a sovereign entity of their own

The Plight of the Rohingyas

By Martin W. Lewis | January 2, 2010 |

The standard linguistic map of Burma/Myanmar (below) reveals a significant number of ethnic groups. Unfortunately, it also conceals much of the country’s diversity, as a number of separate peoples are joined together into composite ethnic categories, while others are simply ignored. The most important group in the latter category are the Rohingyas, a distinct people

Australian Camel Invasion

By Martin W. Lewis | January 1, 2010 |

The remote Aboriginal village of Kaltukatjara (“Docker River”) in Australia’s Northern Territory is currently under siege – from camels. Severe drought has driven some 6,000 dromedaries into the community, where they wreak havoc by knocking over fire hydrants and busting into houses – right through the walls in some cases

Linguistic Geography and the Nuba Mountains

By Martin W. Lewis | December 31, 2009 |

The Ethnologue is one of the best sites on the web for information about languages and linguistic geography. In the Ethnologue map shown above, a red dot is placed at the geographical center of each of the 6,906 languages listed in the organization’s database. One of the more interesting patterns visible in

Ethnic Rioting in Suriname

By Martin W. Lewis | December 30, 2009 | 4 Comments

In late December 2009, anti-Brazilian rioting broke out in the town of Albina in northeastern Suriname after a Brazilian man allegedly stabbed and killed a local resident. The ethnic violence grew so intensive that the Brazilian Foreign Ministry was forced to send in two aircraft to airlift its citizens from