Tove H. Malloy

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Archive for ethno-cultural groups

Minority Issues in Europe: New Ideas and Approaches

The second textbook and edited volume on Minority Issues in Europe; New Ideas and Approaches seeks to address the inability of many scholars to see members of minority groups as actors in their own right. Most of the literature on minority rights and protection sees minority issues and politics through the lens of paternalism, in the sense of exerting control over minority groups through legislation and the institutionalisation of their existence and participation in public affairs. This view assumes that members of minority groups are objects in need of directional guidance through law and policy, rather than subjects of common societal integration processes through individual and collective autonomy. Members of minorities are, therefore, not seen as actors directing their own fate through reflexive action, nor are they seen as agents of change influencing societal development.

Reflexivity is a late modernity activity based on individual autonomy. It denotes a characteristic that is required of human beings living in the complex world of late modern society – the ability to recognise the forces acting upon oneself, and to actively respond to those forces. In particular, the confluence of the cultural, the social, and the political contributes to the need for enhanced reflexivity. Reflexive reasoning and action can be both negative and positive. For instance, according to experts, a low rate of reflexivity results in the individual’s identity formation being outer-directed, meaning lack of capabilities to reason and think independently and critically, whereas a high rate of reflexivity results in independent action forming a pro-active and inner-directed identity that allows the person to reason and think autonomously. More technically, reflexivity avoids the pitfall of one-directional thinking and reasoning about binary relationships, such as cause-and-effect relations. On this notion, reflexivity promotes a circular mode of thinking and reasoning about phenomena, such as for instance minority-majority relations, whereby human thinking and action is bidirectional and guided by dialectic reasoning. When thinking and acting reflexively, a person is able to understand cause-and-effect from several perspectives and may be able to imagine these changing roles. Some anthropologists have viewed this negatively, whereas culturalists consider it a positive process. In more specific terms, minorities are taking reflexive action and are influencing European discourses, largely through bottom-up democratisation. They do so by seeking new spaces in politics, and this in turn has been seen to transform institutions. The reflexivity argument calls, therefore, for a new research agenda in minority studies.

For more on this, check out the new volume here.



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