"Strategies of cultural survival: The influence of European minority rights"


Cultural minorities are in growing numbers making rights claims in national and international fora. This paper is poring over the aspects of identity that are used to justify such claims. I will ask what kind of identities can "survive". How must a group formulate its identity claim in order to have access to "cultural survival"? Working with Sami people who form the only European indigenous group, and with the Sorbian minority in Eastern Germany, I realized that international minority rights are not only protecting minorities form state oppression. These rights also define and co-determine which identity claims are possible. This paper focuses on the question posed by minority activists: How can my people survive? My research points out that the activists tend to look for answers in a nationalistic, ethnic-oriented discourse that idealizes homogeneity and authenticity of nations. The activists explain their internal nationalization policies with arguments which are coherent with international minority law: Only the groups that can prove that they have one common language, one descent, one set of tradition etc. as signs of one "collective" identity are recognized by international law as real minority groups. This paper concludes that if the minority elite wants to claim rights, there seems to be no other alternative for them as to try to nationalize at least the public outlook of their minority

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Archive of European Integration

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This paper was published in Archive of European Integration.

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