An Ethnic History Of Europe since 1945 Essay

This essay has a total of 1700 words and 7 pages.


An Ethnic History Of Europe since 1945




An Ethnic History Of Europe since 1945



Ethnicity, the rise of nationalism, the formation of new nation-states in the aftermath of
the collapse of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and the peaceful split of Czechoslovakia have
become central topics for politics and scholarship in the 1990s. Studies on ethnic
conflict, nation building, and particular ethnic and minority groups in Europe abounded
throughout the last decade. However, a cohesive book that provides a systematic and
general picture of minority existence so far has been missing. Panikos Panayi's An Ethnic
History of Europe since 1945 (published in New York, 2000) tries to fill this gap for the
post-war period. As the author correctly states, so far: "no single author has attempted
to examine the European ethnic mosaic since the end of the Second World War. The present
volume is therefore the first attempt by an individual author to rectify this situation"
(p. 3). Thus the author sets a high goal for himself in making a general and definite
contribution to the field.

The author structures his book into four sections, the first one dealing with a general
introduction to European minority history with a special focus on the time since 1945; the
second one locating this particular history within the wider framework of European social
and economic history; the third one discussing ethnicity as the key issue of European
minority history, and finally the fourth one describing the interrelation of majorities
and minorities within a system of nation-states. Section one briefly discusses the
typology of minorities and gives the reader a short explanation of the concept underlying
the author's notion of minorities. The second section focuses on demographic,
geographical, economical and social conditions of minority existence, providing the reader
with detailed information about spatial distribution, housing, social cleavages and the
incorporation (or exclusion) of minorities into or from mainstream European societies. The
third section centering on the author's definition of ethnicity discusses the
politicization of cultural differences underlying his definition of ethnicity. The last
section is dedicated to the role of the state in recognition of minority existence of
minorities, and briefly describes the role of modern media in their inclusion or
exclusion.

The author's approach, including indigenous as well as migrant minorities, provides for a
challenging intellectual comparison leaving the reader with the question of what the
merits, but also the limits, of comparison are. The binding element offered by Panayi is
ethnicity that sets dispersed, localized, or immigrant minorities (the three categories he
uses) apart from majorities in a world of nation-states. Thus, at the outset of the book
one expects to learn where the author places himself within the camps of scholars who have
passionately argued from the mid-1980s on about the essence of ethnicity and nationhood.
The reader is surprised from the outset that Panayi does not bother with contextualizing
his concept of ethnic groups and nations within these debates. Instead we learn that
"ethnicity, nation, nationalism, nation state and minority each [...] have a precise
meaning which have become confused by [...] over-use in the media and social science
discourse" (p. 3-4). However, the author does not hesitate to attempt to enlighten his
readers as to the precise meanings which have been lost.

As we learn, since ethnicity stems from the Greek word ethnos and just means nation, "no
difference exists between an ethnic group and a nation" (p. 4 and p. 101). Key to the
concept of an ethnic group/nation are appearance (dress, customs etc.), language and
religion and the politicization that revolves around these three factors. Within this
triangular relationship the miracles of ethnicity and nationhood are easily resolved. So
why bother about all the debates on whether nations and nationalities have a long lasting
historical ethnic kernel? Or why worry whether these categories are just a product of
modernity or mere constructs, and what role elites might have played within this process?
Why discuss how ethnicity and nationhood came to be widely applied and accepted concepts
or what the relationship of ethnicity, nationhood and nationalism might be?

For Panayi the world is simple and theory just reflects simple truths that are evident for
an unbiased scholar with a view for empirical realities and linear, not to say
Continues for 4 more pages >>




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