EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world

Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006


The global character of minority questions in the new Europe

Location Queens 1.15
Date and Start Time 19 Sep, 2006 at 11:30


Antigoni Papanikolaou (Sussex University) email
Zerrin Biner (Cambridge University) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

The panel will explore minority questions - the formation of identifications, the naming of identities, and the articulations of claims and their trajectories across institutions - as produced by and negotiated within a European global nexus of minorities, states and international institutions.

Long Abstract

Public discourse on minority questions, articulated by minority organisations, NGOs, journalists and concerned citizens, tends to be framed in terms of the state-minority relation. Similarly, state-centric approaches of political philosophy have set the terms of public and scholarly debate, posing minority questions under rubrics of nation, multiculturalism and constitutionalism. Yet the worldwide efflorescence of grass-roots struggles as well as efforts at international level to define, and articulate global standards pertaining to, collectivities located within, or across, state borders, such as indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities, demonstrate that minority questions are global: produced within a nexus of relations and processes that span the local to the supranational and which anthropologists are only beginning to conceptualise and map. This panel will consider the nexus between minorities, states and supranational networks and institutions (including diasporas, international and regional institutions, and NGOs) in relation to minority identities and claims. We propose to focus on these phenomena in the context of the new Europe: an entity transformed through processes of the European Union and expanded through the accession of former socialist East European polities, a region at the forefront in formalising minority rights. The panel will explore minority questions - the formation of identifications, the naming of identities, and the articulations of claims and their trajectories across institutions - as produced by and negotiated within a European global nexus of minorities, states and international institutions. We seek to understand not only the perspectives and experiences of minority members and activists but also those of the multiple actors' diasporic compatriots, NGO workers, bureaucrats, internationals, academic experts, and state agents operating at various nodal points on minority questions.

Discussant: Yael Navaro-Yashin, Cambridge and Jane Cowan, Sussex


Re-establishing the dignity of a cosmopolitan city: contested perspectives on culture, rights and ethnicity

Author: Zerrin Biner (Cambridge University)  email
Mail All Authors

Long Abstract

Drawn from the ethnographic work in Mardin, Southeastern Turkey, this paper aims to explore the experience and imaginary of the 'cosmopolitan life' among the minority subjects, namely Kurds, Arabs, Syriac Christians in the aftermath of the emergency law. The social and political structure of the city went through drastic transformation as a result of the military conflict between the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) and the Turkish military forces. In the post-emergency context, the city turned into an example of the rehabilitation and redemption centred official policies. Having been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city attracted the attention of experts, transnational organisation agents and international NGO activists working in collaboration with the locals in order to re-structure and re-fashion Mardin. The public discussions engendered contestations and negotiations among the locals about the imagined and experienced cosmopolitan life in the city. In conveying these discussions, this paper, on the one hand, analyses the contestations between different communities regarding the political and cultural representation of the city, on the other hand, it discusses the ways in which the local discourse of culture was affected by the global discourses of 'multi-culturalism', 'cultural heritage' and 'human rights'.

Reconsidering PC'ness: discourse and social practice in the field of multiculturalism

Author: Christa Markom (University of Vienna)  email
Mail All Authors

Long Abstract

This paper deals with the possible consequences of the interrelation of a specialized scientific discourse and of the everyday life discourse on concepts of discrimination in NGOs dealing with minority rights. One focus of the paper is on the impact of the claim of political correctness in the field of social sciences and NGOs.

As a case in point, I will address the public discourse on and social practice of "cultural diversity" in Austria. Based on empirical data dealing with the context between racist discourse and social practice, the paper argues that there is a considerable increase of insecurity of advocating an opinion about issues concerning immigration, multiculturalism or, for instance, the EU enlargement. My analysis shows, that there are difficulties in deciding what can/should be said - how can "the others" be termed. Some of the people interviewed have a background in social sciences but still lack applicable terms and definitions. Which terms should they use, "the Turks in Austria" "people with migrant background" or "Turkish 2nd generation immigrants" ... ?

The main concern of the paper is to raise questions about the discourse on "them" and "us" regarding the issue of discrimination embedded in history and social hierarchy. PC-Talk as deception of social realities or changing practice, will be discussed by the means of the findings of empirical research. Based on the Austrian example I will dwell on and discuss this possibilities/necessities of anthropological interventions in trying to explicate interrelations between political (correct) language and political (correct) action. The challenge for social anthropology is to offer useable concepts for society and NGO work.

Public culture, Islam and the construction of multicultural societies in Belgium

Author: Marc Verlot (Eqaulity and Human Rights Commission )  email
Mail All Authors

Long Abstract

Debates on multicultural politics heavily draw on the elaboration of theoretical principles or explicit visions of moral order but pay less attention to the impact of public and institutional cultures. In this paper I draw on ethnographic research within Belgian institutions to analyse the ways in which policy makers develop policies for teachers of Islamic religion. I argue that deep rooted differences in public culture between the Flemish and French speaking policy elites in Belgium lead to a very different perception and institutional handling of Islam in the public sphere, with contradictory and surprising outcomes. Flemish communitarianism leads to a liberal multiculturalism in which Islamic teachers are given a constructive role in public schools. By contrast the egalitarian ethos in French speaking institutions, however leads to a marginalisation of Muslim religion teachers. Drawing from these examples I suggest that we need to pay more attention to the implicit cultural assumptions of policy makers and policy institutions and how these are articulated and expressed to understand the construction and practice of multicultural policies.

Claiming citizenship rights: modern notions of citizenship and the case of the Turkish Muslim minority in Greece

Author: Antigoni Papanikolaou (Sussex University)  email
Mail All Authors

Long Abstract

Mert, a 79 years old man, ex-Greek citizen and member of the Turkish-Muslim minority in Thrace (Greece), was one among the 46638 members of this Minority who lost their citizenship between 1955-1998 based on the provisions of article 19 of the Greek Citizenship Code which entailed that those citizens of 'foreign descent' who left Greece without the intention of returning, could be deprived of their Greek citizenship. Article 19 was abolished in 1998 without retroactive effect. How do Mert and his family experience their stateless status? Which were the criteria according to which a member of the Turkish-Muslim minority lost his/her citizenship? The strip of someone' s citizenship deprives people from a fundamental aspect of their identity, that of citizenship. It is interesting to raise the question how people picture their stateless status in relation to broader identity as well as human/minority rights issues.

My paper builds on the case of a human right, which was locally understood as a minority right. I aim to discuss modern notions of citizenship within the newly developed EU and international framework. My main objective is to highlight the strategic use of a right by multiple agents operating at local, national and international level in order to achieve different political outcomes. I argue that states' policies, internal minority dynamics as well as European and international-wide policies are found in dialectic relationship with each other. This is a two way process where traditional nation-states' political practices challenge and are challenged by European and international norms.

The Hungarian minorities in Romania and Slovakia as framed by international organisations

Author: Jakob Skovgaard (European University Institute)  email
Mail All Authors

Long Abstract

This paper focuses on the attempts of the Council of Europe, the EU and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) to influence the Hungarian minority policies of the Slovak and Romanian governments in the period 1989-2004. The paper aims at providing an understanding of how contested issues and concepts within the European national minority regime have been framed by the three organisations in their communications to the governments of the two states. These concepts include national minorities, their rights and the best ways of avoiding conflict as well as creating a just solution for both minority and majority. Many of these concepts have been loosely defined in international documents on national minorities, such as the OSCE Copenhagen Declaration and the Council of Europe Framework Convention on National Minorities, but have only been clearly conceptualised in the practice of the organisations. I will argue that the treatment of the Hungarian minority issue by the organisations provides an instructive insight into this practice and the views held by the organisations which have shaped this practice.

Differences between the frames used will be discussed, as will developments over time, in order to arrive at the conclusion that there has been a significant convergence between the organisations during the period. In this regard, especially the degree to which the organisations have framed the Hungarian minority issue as an issue concerning justice or concerning security and conflict prevention will be discussed. This is important, as it affected the interpretation of themes in national minority rights such as collective and individual rights, autonomy and minority participation. One of my arguments will be that the organisations differed in terms of authority and symbolic power to define contested concepts, so that the HCNM had the moral authority and expertise to declare how the Hungarian minority issue should be framed, which the EU did not have, which meant that they would have to draw on the declarations of the HCNM. These declarations, on the other hand, would have little impact on the states if the EU had not used them in its policy.

Conflicting labels, overlapping discourses and segregating policies: the case of Kosovo Roma refugees living in 'nomad camps' in Italy

Author: Nando Sigona (Oxford Brookes University)  email
Mail All Authors

Long Abstract

This paper is based on the fieldwork I carried out in different stages and locations between April 2005 and February 2006 for my doctoral research on Kosovo Roma refugees in Italy and the management of the "Gypsy problem" in Italy. In order to do an ethnography of social and political processes, the fieldwork had to be designed in a way to comprehend the roles and dynamics of the various agents involved and meet them in different settings and situations. It also required myself to perform different roles, interact according different "rules of engagement" with the people I encountered and adjust my profile to circumstances.

By drawing upon "official" and "unofficial" fieldwork-generated outputs (i.e. transcripts, fieldnotes, diary, emails, fieldwork anecdotes) , the paper discusses the interplay of my "identities" with informants in the field and reflect upon the relationship between the multiple, and sometimes ambiguous, positionality of the researcher and her struggle to address, and cope with, his moral debt/obligation towards informers which goes beyond the writing of a book on them, especially if most of them are illiterate and are by far the most discriminated minority living in Italy.

By comparing Florence and Venice, the paper also investigates the nature of "nomad camps" as de facto refugee camps and, simultaneously, loci for the management of the "Gypsy problem" which, on one hand, enhance and maintain the status quo of segregation and marginalisation of Roma from the rest of the Italian society, on the other, provide a shelter and a place for building and reinforcing community identity and mutual support among its inmates.

The hidden people: the different forms of identification in ancient and contemporary Albanian communities in southern Italy

Author: Alessandro Lutri (University of Catania)  email
Mail All Authors

Long Abstract

The albanian origins have been always a great and important pride of the arbereshe communities (italian-albanian) settled in southern Italy in the XVI century, after the invasion of the Ottoman empire on balkan area. This pride increased in them an ethnic counsciousness of their cultural difference, in comparison of the local people, since the XVIII century. The claim for the recognition of their different cultural identity (the traditional language and the byzantin religious cult) allowed them the preservation and the intensification of their distinct self. They do not say to be albanians, but only that their origin are albanians. This cultural strategy keeped the italian national assimilation since was founded the Italian Repubblic.

At the contrary the contemporary albanian immigrants (shqiptare) hidden their cultural and national identity, and to appropriate of the italian culture.

In this paper we want confront the different social choices about the form of identification, analysing how these are made and the political, economic and social circumstances that lead to different types of migratory career and diasporic community.