Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

Minority Coalition-Building and Nation-States

Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

Minority Coalition-Building and Nation-States

Article excerpt

It has been observed previously that 'to some extent, much of the social sciences have become a prisoner of the nation-state' (Beck & Sznaider 2006: 5). Ethnic studies have not escaped the trap of methodological nationalism either: although a vast body of literature has been dedicated to ethnic relations within and across nation-states, with the contributions ranging from political science and political theory to sociology, social anthropology, philosophy, legal theory, and economics, much of the past and on-going debates are constrained by limiting the focus of investigation to the binary relations between a particular minority and a state-possessing ethnic majority. And in this sense, one may say that ethnic studies are dedicated to studying ethno-national, rather than interethnic relations, locking them within the analytical coordinates of the nation-state.

Stable majority-minority relations are paramount to peaceful coexistence, and to both domestic and international security. Most nation-states, however, are home to multiple ethnic communities; this internal diversity is ever-growing thanks to accelerating migration processes. Each of these communities, besides having vertical relations with the statepossessing ethnic majority, is also horizontally linked with other non-dominant ethnic groups present. Within the nation-state, these complex relations among different ethnic minorities have a profound impact on each minority's relations with the eponymous nation and on the overall state of ethnic relations. Indeed, the very presence of different ethnic minorities within the same national unit, with their different ethnic and racial compositions, different cultural and religious practices, different points of origin, different times of arrival, as well as varying settlement and integration patterns and different histories of relations with the eponymous nation, deeply affects the field of majority-minority relations. For new ethnic groups arriving in a country, the history of their predecessors' integration, with its successes and its failures, and the way it is perceived by the majority (which may not necessarily be the same thing) will inevitab ly influence their own experience.

Although Donald Horowitz (1985) distinguished between ranked and unranked ethnic relationships, defining a situation in which each group has a full complement of statuses (in other words - social class and ethnic origin do not coincide) as unranked, he also conceded that these are ideal types, that in real life this distinction is often blurred, and that ethnic hierarchies are a persistent phenomenon. This latter point is also supported by social identity studies measuring social distance (Tajfel 1974, 1981; Tajfel and Turner 1979) - indeed, ethnic groups contained within a nation-state are perceived by both insiders and outsiders in a hierarchical order, which can be determined by even a casual observer within a relatively short period of time (in Europe, for example, the predominant pattern is for North Europeans to be on top, followed by South Europeans, then by other ethnic groups, with the Roma inevitably being at the bottom). When a new immigrant group is presented with an existing pecking order, its chances of fitting into it are, to a very large extent, affected by all kinds of associations, past and present. If there are, indeed, two or more unranked groups present at the top of the hierarchy, lower-ranked minorities find themselves in a tricky situation. Ezra Mendelsohn, in his brilliant book on the history of Jews in Eastern Europe, made a poignant observation that 'to be caught between two competing cultures is always a dangerous situation for a minority' (Mendelsohn 1983). He described the plight of the Jews in interwar Czechoslovakia, who were under enormous pressure to 'choose' between the German and Czech languages; and of Romanian-Jewish relations in Transylvania, which were so adversely affected by the Jews' cultural affiliation with the Magyars. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.