AskDefine | Define separatism

Dictionary Definition



1 a social system that provides separate facilities for minority groups [syn: segregation]
2 a disposition toward schism and secession from a larger group; the principles and practices of separatists; "separatism is a serious problem in Quebec"; "demands for some form of separatism on grounds of religion have been perceived as a threat to mainstream education"

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A theory or doctrine which supports a state of separation between organizations, institutions, or other societal groups (e.g. between church and state) or between different political jurisdictions (e.g. a country and its former colony).
    She wrote an essay expounding the tenets of Scottish separatism.
  2. The practice of treating members of different societal groups in a politically, legally, or economically different manner.
    Apartheid was a government-enformed form of separatism in which people received unequal social benefits based on race.''

Related terms

Extensive Definition

Separatism refers to the advocacy of a state of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial or gender separation from the larger group, often with demands for greater political autonomy and even for full political secession and the formation of a new state. Depending on their political situation and views, groups may refer to their organizing as independence, self-determination, partition or decolonization movements instead of, or in addition to, autonomy, separatist or secession movements. 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 serves useful purposes.Karen W. Arenson, CUNY Program to Help Black Men Is Called Discriminatory, New York Times, April 19, 2006.

Motivations for separatism

Groups may have one or more motivations for separation, including:
  • emotional resentment of rival communities
  • justified resistance by victims of oppression, including denigration of their language, culture or religion
  • propaganda by those who hope to gain politically from intergroup conflict and hatred
  • the economic and political dominance of one group that does not share power and privilege in an egalitarian fashion
  • economic motivations of seeking to end economic exploitation by more powerful group or, conversely, to escape economic redistribution from a richer to a poorer group
  • preservation of threatened religous, language or other cultural tradition
  • destabilization from one separatist movement giving rise to others
  • geopolitical power vacuum from breakup of larger states or empires
  • continuing fragmentation as more and more states break up.

Governmental responses

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 and social factors, including movement leadership and the government’s response. Governments may respond in a number of ways, some of which are mutually exclusive. These may have little effect, satisfy separatist demands or even increase them.
  • accede to separatist demands
  • improve the circumstances of disadvantaged minorities, be they religious, linguistic, territorial, economic or political
  • adopt “asymmetric federalism” where different states have different relations to the central government depending on separatist demands or considerations
  • allow minorities to win in political disputes about which they feel strongly, through parliamentary voting, referendum, etc.
  • settle for a confederation or a commonwealth relationship where there are only limited ties among states.

Types of separatist groups

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. However, economic and political factors usually are critical in creating strong separatist movements from less active identity movements. The Pilgrims who established the first successful colony in New England were separatists.


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.


Separatist feminism is women’s choosing to separate from male-defined, male-dominated institutions, relationships, roles and activities. 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.

External Links

separatism in Tosk Albanian: Separatismus
separatism in Asturian: Independentismu
separatism in Bulgarian: Сепаратизъм
separatism in Catalan: Independentisme
separatism in Czech: Separatismus
separatism in Spanish: Separatismo
separatism in French: Indépendantisme
separatism in Korean: 분리주의
separatism in Indonesian: Separatisme
separatism in Italian: Indipendentismo
separatism in Georgian: სეპარატიზმი
separatism in Lithuanian: Separatizmas
separatism in Dutch: Separatisme
separatism in Japanese: 分離主義
separatism in Polish: Separatyzm
separatism in Portuguese: Independentismo
separatism in Russian: Сепаратизм
separatism in Slovak: Separatizmus
separatism in Finnish: Separatismi
separatism in Swedish: Separatism (sociologi)
separatism in Ukrainian: Сепаратизм
separatism in Chinese: 分離主義

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1