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Separatism is the advocacy of a state of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial, governmental or gender separation from the larger group. While it often refers to full political secession,[1] separatist groups may seek nothing more than greater autonomy.[2] Some groups refer to their organizing as independence, self-determination, partition or decolonization movements instead of, or in addition to, autonomist, separatist or secession movements.[citation needed] While some critics may equate separatism and religious segregation, racial segregation or sexual segregation, separatists argue that separation by choice is not the same as government-enforced segregation and may serve useful purposes.[3][4][5][6][7]

Motivations for separatism[edit]

Groups may have one or more motivations for separation, including:[8]

Governmental responses[edit]

How far separatist demands will go toward full independence, and whether groups pursue constitutional and nonviolent or armed violence, depend on a variety of economic, political, social and cultural factors, including movement leadership[9] and the government's response.[10] Governments may respond in a number of ways, some of which are mutually exclusive. Some include:[11]

Some governments suppress any separatist movement in their own country, but support separatism in other countries.

Types of separatist groups[edit]

Separatist groups practice a form of identity politics - "political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of injustice of members of certain social groups." Such groups believe attempts at integration with dominant groups compromise their identity and ability to pursue greater self-determination.[12] However, economic and political factors usually are critical in creating strong separatist movements as opposed to less ambitious identity movements.[10]

See more complete lists of historical and active autonomist and secessionist movements, as well as a list of unrecognized countries.


A proposed flag for Khalistan, the independent Sikh state.

Religious separatist groups and sects want to withdraw from some larger religious groups and/or believe they should interact primarily with co-religionists.[citation needed]


Catalan independentist mural in Belfast.
Map of active separatist movements in the European Union. Red names indicate regions with movements that only claim greater autonomy within the actual state. Black names indicate regions with important secessionist movements, although both categories include moderate movements. The nations highlighted in colours are the territories claimed by the local nationalist groups, including areas out of the state's borders and cases of annexation to other states (click to enlarge).
OLF rebels in Kenya armed with AK-47 rifles.
A Tuareg rebel fighter in northern Niger.
Silesians demonstrating in Katowice (in Silesia).

Ethnic separatism is based more on cultural and linguistic differences than religious or racial differences, which also may exist. Notable ethnic separatist movements include:


Some groups seek to separate from others along racialist lines. They oppose inter-marriage with other races and seek separate schools, businesses, churches and other institutions or even separate societies, territories and governments.

Territories considered for "Aztlán"

Geographic / Socioeconomic[edit]


Separatist feminism is women's choosing to separate from ostensibly male-defined, male-dominated institutions, relationships, roles and activities.[38] Lesbian separatism advocates lesbianism as the logical result of feminism. Some separatist feminists and lesbian separatists have chosen to live apart in intentional community, cooperatives, and on land trusts.[39] "Gay" separatism including both lesbians and gay men holds they should form a community distinct and separate from other groups.[40][41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Free Dictionary; Merriam Webster dictionary; The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current= English 2008.
  2. ^ R. Harris, Jerry Harris, The Nation in the Global Era: Conflict and Transformation, Brill, 2009, p. 320, ISBN 90-04-17690-X, 9789004176904
  3. ^ John Leo, "Let the Segregation Commence, Separatist graduations proliferate at UCLA", City Journal, June 13, 2007
  4. ^ Nancy Levit, Embracing Segregation: The Jurisprudence of Choice and Diversity in Race and Sex Separatism in Schools (PDF), University of Illinois Law Review, August 29, 2005, 455.
  5. ^ Karen W. Arenson, CUNY Program to Help Black Men Is Called Discriminatory, New York Times, April 19, 2006.
  6. ^ Betty A. Dobratz, Stephanie L. Shanks-Meile, Strategy of White Separatism, Journal of Political and Military Sociology, Summer 2006.
  7. ^ Nancy B. Howell, Radical Relatedness and Feminist Separatism.
  8. ^ Metta Spencer, Separatism: Democracy and Disintegration, Rowman & Littlefield, 1998, 2-4.
  9. ^ Link to: Chima, Jugdep. "Effects of Political Leadership on Ethnic Separatist Movements in India" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Palmer House Hotel, Chicago, Illinois, April 12, 2007 (PDF); Chima, Jugdep. "How Does Political Leadership Affect the Trajectories of Ethnic Separatist Insurgencies?: Comparative Evidence from Movements in India" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Marriott Wardman Park, Omni Shoreham, Washington Hilton, Washington, D.C., September 01, 2005 (PDF).
  10. ^ a b See D.L. Horowitz's "Patterns of Ethnic Separatism", originally published in Comparative Studies in Society and History, 1981, vol 23, 165-95. Republished in John A. Hall, The State: Critical Concepts, Routledge, 1994.
  11. ^ Metta Spencer, 5-6.
  12. ^ Identity Politics, Stanford University Encyclopedia of Philosophy, November 2, 2007.
  13. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica on religious separatists.
  14. ^ John Abbot Goodwin, The Pilgrim republic: an historical review of the colony of New Plymouth..., Houghton Mifflin Company, 1888, separatists&f=false p. 1
  15. ^ Christian separatist on trial in Indonesia, BBC, August 19, 2002.
  16. ^ Chris Brummitt, Christian separatist leader threatens to raise independence flags in Maluku, Associated Press, April 5, 2002.
  17. ^ Syed Zarir Hussain, Christian separatist group in Tripura target tribal Hindus, Indo-Asian News Service, December 31, 2002/
  18. ^ Christian separatist ready for new home, Ventura County Star, June 9, 2007.
  19. ^ Colorado Rep. disavows ties to SC Christian separatist group, Associated Press, October 9, 2005.
  20. ^ Koppel S. Pinson, Simon Dubnow, p. 13-69, 1958.
  21. ^ Blbir Punj, The Ghost of Khalistan,, June 16, 2006.
  22. ^ Niger, hit by Tuareg revolt, adopts anti-terror law . Reuters. April 20, 2008.
  23. ^ Mughal, Muhammad Aurang Zeb. 2012. Spain. Steven L. Denver (ed.), Native Peoples of the World: An Encyclopedia of Groups, Cultures, and Contemporary Issues, Vol. 3. Armonk, NY: M .E. Sharpe, pp. 674-675.
  24. ^ "Who were the Celts? ... Rhagor". Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales website. Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales. 2007-05-04. Retrieved 2009-12-10. 
  25. ^ The Bavaria's right to separate itself from the Federal Republic of Germany [1]
  26. ^ Harold E. Glass, Ethnic Diversity, Elite Accommodation and Federalism in Switzerland, Publius, Vol. 7, No. 4, Federalism and Ethnicity (Autumn, 1977), 31-48. Oxford University Press.
  27. ^ African Ethnicities University of Florida online library.
  28. ^ Excerpt from book Ethnic Conflicts in Africa, Okwudiba Nnoli, Distributed by African Books Collective, 1998, 417, University of Florida online library.
  29. ^ Emmy Godwin Irobi, Ethnic Conflict Management in Africa: A Comparative Case Study of Nigeria and South Africa, May, 2005, Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder.
  30. ^ a b Reviews of Katharine Adeney Federalism and Ethnic Conflict Regulation in India and Pakistan, Palgrame MacMillan, 2007.
  31. ^ Telangana
  32. ^ S.D. Muini, Ethnic conflict, federalism, and democracy in India, Chapter 10 of Ethnicity and power in the contemporary world, Edited by Kumar Rupesinghe and Valery A. Tishkov, United Nations University Press, 1996.
  33. ^ "China issues call to crush Tibetan 'separatists'". Agence France-Presse. 2009-02-19. Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  34. ^ a b Professor Predicts 'Hispanic Homeland', Associated Press, 2000
  35. ^ Franklin Foer, Racial Integration, Slate, November 23, 1997.
  36. ^ Rich Barlow, Topic turns to Wright case, Boston Globe, April 26, 2008.
  37. ^ Betty A. Dobratz, Stephanie L. Shanks-Meile, The White Separatist Movement in the United States: "White Power, White Pride!", The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000, 1-3, 10.
  38. ^ Marilyn Frye, "Some Reflections on Separatism and Power" in Feminist Social Thought: A Reader, Diana Tietjens Meyers (ed.) Routledge, 1997, 406-414.
  39. ^ Joyce Cheney, Lesbian Land, Word Weavers Press, 1976.
  40. ^ Mark K. Bloodsworth-Lugo, In-Between Bodies: Sexual Difference, Race, and Sexuality, SUNY Press, 2007, ISBN 0-7914-7221-3
  41. ^ Richard D. Mohr, Gays/Justice: A Study of Ethics, Society, and Law, Columbia University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-231-06735-6

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