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Ethnicity, Nationalism and Ethnic Minorities

Pavla Kokaislová

Kokaislová, Pavla. Ethnicity, Nationalism and Ethnic Minorities [online] 2018. Available from: http://www.hks.re/wiki/0:etnicita.

Nation, Ethnicity and Ethnicity

Understanding and definitions of nation and ethnicity vary in the literature. These concepts often overlap with other concepts, although they may not be identical.

Tesař1) talks about the development of the concept of ethnicity, which in Greek literature (the term ethnos) means approximately the same as nation and was originally applied only to the Greek „locals“. Gradually, its meaning changed as it came to be associated with the „non-Greek“, in Greek terms, the „barbaric and uncivilized“ world. In the 3rd century BC Greek translation of the Old Testament, the term is used in the sense of the biblical nations as the opposite of the chosen people. The Christianization of Europe relegated the concept of ethnicity in the sense of „people from elsewhere“ to the margins of the lexicon and it did not return to common usage until much later.

In the 19th century, when referring to racially distinct and uncivilized savages, their communities were most often referred to as tribes. However, these „savages“ were never referred to as a „nation“, even though they adopted some cultural conveniences (writing, an elected parliament).

At this point it is worth clarifying the division of the units described into political and cultural.

The use of the term „tribe“ may have its origin in the still surviving categorization of human groups into „national“ and „tribal“. In non-familial, state-centered, postmodern societies, the nation is usually understood as the counterpart of the tribe. This is not an exact counterpart, because the tribe is a political or cultural unit, while the nation is a cultural or political unit. The real counterpart of the tribe is the state2).

At present, therefore, the concept of nation (with the term ethnicity often considered synonymous) is understood primarily as a cultural unit. The merging of the national unit and the political unit into one unit is typical of nationalism. The nationalist approach requires that everyone within a political unit belongs to the same culture and that all people of one culture form one state. Ethnicity is basically defined as a common culture. Simply put: one culture, one state. One of the ways to achieve homogeneity (besides the gradual, when the members of a nation, and therefore a state, forget the diversity of their cultural origins) can be ethnic cleansing3).

However, some definitions of nation and state are flawed, as can be shown by the example of Tesar already mentioned: „…All definitions (of nation) have a common core: a nation is a politically organized community whose members share a high degree of consciousness of mutual belonging.“ This definition of nation is very close to the nationalist conception precisely because of its emphasis on political organization. Indeed, there are a number of nations (ethnicities) that not only do not have their own state, but are not politically organized in any way within the „foreign“ state where they live. Among the members of such nations (often living in the territory of several states), however, there is sometimes a stronger and sometimes a weaker awareness of mutual belonging. This belonging may be, for example, on the basis of language, culture, religion 4) or historical awareness.

A definition of nation that emphasizes politically organized communities does not take into account a large number of mainly non-European peoples (from the present day, one can name e.g. the very well-known Kurds (despite their partial political organization under Iraqi autonomy), the Uyghurs(despite their official autonomy within China, the political organization of the Uyghurs as a unified nation is rather fictitious), the Baloch, many African ethnic groups living in the territory of three or more countries… without political organization. Until World War II it was the Jews, nowadays the Tamils (75 million members) are often cited as the largest nation without its own state. These communities are definitely linked by ties other than political ones.

Počet shlédnutí: 36

TESAŘ, F. Etnické konfliktkty. Praha: Portál, 2007.
KANDERT, J. „We“, members of civilized nations, and „they“, members of tribes. Vesmir. 2003, no. 82, p. 226-232.
GELLNER, E. Nationalism. Brno: CDK, 2003, pp. 62-63.
In the case of a broad definition of culture, religious tradition may be included in culture; religion is then a subset of the cultural basis.
ls2021/ethnicity_nationalism_and_ethnic_minorities.txt · Poslední úprava: 11. 05. 2021 (07:56) autor: