“The amount of resources ethnic groups possess as well as the type of ethnopolitical regime they live in will determine their ability to make they voice heard in the public debate”

Professor Vello Pettai at the inaugural lecture of the 2022 Summer School on National Minorities in Border Regions

News / 28.7.22

Professor Vello Pettai, Director of the the European Centre for Minority Issues, gave the first lecture at the 2022 Summer School on National Minorities and Border Regions in the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Oñati.

Ethnicity is best analysed as a phenomenon of social communication which individuals use to project and experience a feeling of broader commonality with other individuals and as a result of which they increase their degree of trust toward others. In this respect, ethnicity is a functional process which allows human beings to overcome otherwise predominant psychological tendencies of mistrust.

We can distinguish three elements of social communication: aesthetic-expressive elements (which includes cultural components such as music, literature or visual art), value-based behavioural elements (composed of both moral markers and shared memories or shared history) and structural-physiological elements (such as language, religion or race).

The functioning of ethnicity was drastically transformed by the advent of modern states initiated by the American and French revolutions in the 17th century and later spread throughout the world. “Nationhood” became the term for denoting the new way in which ethnicity would be changed by this new interaction with centralised political power. From then on, ethnicity was the combined product of individuals’ efforts to maintain the integrity of their social communicative system, and of modern state bringing its centralised authority (with such elements as flag, anthems, commemorations, language laws or religious rules).

When discussing ethnopolitical situations, which refers to the historical processes via which ethnic groups have come to find themselves together territory, we have to consider in the first place, ethnic groups came into contact because of geographic contiguousness. More recently, they came together through various migration processes such as European colonial expansion and the large-scale implementation of slavery it implied, state-sponsored labor migration as well as legal and clandestine migration.

Alongside the original historical process of nation-states forming in Europe, a great deal of other combinations of ethnic groups have since emerged which have been driven largely by the advent of new forms of movement and settlement around the globe (voluntary or involuntary). The amount of resources (material, social, political and normative) ethnic groups possess as well as the type of ethnopolitical regime they live in will determine their ability to make they voice heard in the public debate.

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This event is financially supported by the European Parliament. The European Parliament is not liable for the content of the event nor the opinions of the speakers.

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This Summer School is a joint initiative of Coppieters Foundation and ECMI .

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