This thesis combines the disciplines of political science and philosophy to illuminate the conceptual links between ethnic nationalism, postcolonial disputes, and epistemology. In doing so, it proposes a novel understanding of postcolonial disputes that moves beyond the politics of national sentiments and socially constructed historical memory to one that also recognizes the epistemic stakes in the contestation. To this end, the research question is stated as, “If postcolonial disputes are intensified by ethnic nationalism, are postcolonial disputes an instance of epistemic subjectivism?” To answer the question, the thesis pursues two objectives (the empirical and the philosophical) that ultimately tie in together. The first objective is to examine the intersection of ethnic nationalism and postcolonial disputes. The hypothesis which finds an association between high levels of ethnic nationalism and the growing intensity of postcolonial disputes is supported in the comparative case studies of India-United Kingdom (UK) and South Korea-Japan postcolonial dyads. The second objective is to provide an epistemic evaluation of the nature of postcolonial disputes and interest-driven knowledge claims. This epistemological analysis is further divided into two subparts where the first part presents the tendency by colonizer states to avoid negative aspects of colonial history, as a manifestation of “active ignorance.” The second part evaluates the interest-driven knowledge claims made by the colonized country that demonstrates high levels of ethnic nationalism (which is South Korea as identified in this thesis). Here, a paradoxical claim is made that despite the involvement of subjective forces in the knowledge claims made by a country identified with strong ethnic nationalism (such as the emotional attachment to one’s nation and its members), the content of postcolonial disputes can maintain epistemic objectivity. The dominant assumptions about knowledge rooted in the scientific paradigm tend to deny the validity or the possibility of other types of knowledge. In response, social epistemology and virtue epistemology are discussed as alternative paradigms to their Cartesian counterpart. By deviating from the scientific model of knowledge and recognizing the distinct quality of knowledge (the intentionality of interpretation) that postcolonial disputes concern, this thesis argues that the colonized community is not merely biased in favor of itself, but rather, is better positioned to add valuable insights into the historical knowledge of colonization. The colonized groups’ knowledge claims can thus trigger a shift in the epistemic discourse: from the persistence of a muted account of colonial history to the birth of a historical understanding of colonization that reflects the voices and reveals the experiences of the oppressed. Ultimately, the transition to ethical epistemology or knowledge about people and their relationships is proposed. This analytical approach will generate a more nuanced understanding of interest-driven knowledge claims in postcolonial disputes fueled by ethnic nationalism, an understanding that embodies the inherent complexities of the matter.


Kille, Kent

Second Advisor

McBride, Lee


Philosophy; Political Science


Epistemology | International Relations


Ethnic Nationalism, Ethnosymbolism, Postcolonial Disputes, Virtue Epistemology, Social Epistemology, Ethical Epistemology

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar


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