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Handbook of language & ethnic identity

Handbook of language & ethnic identity

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Handbook of language & ethnic identity

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  1. Handbook of language & ethnic identity Chapter 5: History by Harald Haarmann

  2. Pre-historic ethnicity? • Homo erectus shows no real evidence of ethnic diversity; use of language is debatable • Homo sapiens shows strong evidence of cultural diversity throughout the archeological record

  3. The Relationship of Identity and Ethnicity over Time • Self-identity in contrast with the “other” “is the prime motor of human evolution, with language as the major signifier in human relations” • Identity: kinship, place, worldview (religious/political), value system • Political interests and ethnic issues may clash dangerously (e.g., Jewish-Arabic, former Yugoslavia, Russia-Chechnya)

  4. The Historical Role of Language in Ethnicity • What role does language play? • Language provides the means for constructing identity • This does not mean, however, that language is the exclusive or even the major marker of identity • Some exceptions: • Jewish identity = religion + ancestry • Serb vs. Croat vs. Bosnian = religion

  5. Linguistic nation • This concept developed in 18th c Age of Enlightenment, spread as policy in 19th c • You are what you speak: ethnonyms and names of languages are usually coextensive • Greeks considered all non-Greeks “barbarians” • [cf. Slavs and “nemcy”]

  6. Periods when language was a marker of ethnicity • Late Antiquity to Middle Ages: Irish, Anglo-Saxon, Germanic cultures • Middle Ages: Formation of Romance, Slavic, Nordic cultures and the rise of their vernaculars to literary status • Protestantism: Elaboration of literary languages for smaller groups (Finns, Sorbs, Latvians, etc.) • Enlightenment and Age of Nationalism: Adaptation of earlier trends for political ends • Age of Modern Nationalism: 1990s-present, rise of nations of FSU and East Bloc

  7. Why did Ethnic Revivals become prominent in 1990s? • Ethnic issues are easily exploited for political purposes • Three reasons for this growth: • Dissolution of Ideological Tensions & Revitalization of National Cultures • Impact of Ethnic Self-Awareness on Political Affairs • Ethnic Mixing of Populations in Western Industrialized Countries

  8. Dissolution of Ideological Tensions & Revitalization of National Cultures • Soviet totalitarianism collapsed, as did other communist regimes, and ethnic identities asserted themselves • Soviet Union > • Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, etc. • East Bloc > • Poland, Czechoslovakia (>Czech & Slovak Republics), Hungary, Romania, etc. • Yugoslavia > • Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia

  9. Impact of Ethnic Self-Awareness on Political Affairs • The drive for human rights led to awareness of ethnicity’s role in creating cohesion, as well as spurring economic growth and political influence • Economic competition is culture-oriented • Increased sensitivity to self-awareness in inter-ethnic relations (lack of such sensitivity can lead to isolation & terrorism)

  10. Ethnic Mixing of Populations in Western Industrialized Countries • “In W Europe, traditional patterns of areal ethnicity have dissolved and are being transformed into settings of multiple ethnicity.” • Intermingling of languages, cultures, and races provokes various reactions: • increases awareness of ethnic cultures, producing both respect and conflict • minority groups require educational support and cultural autonomy, and this requires state funding

  11. Outlook • To avoid ethnic tensions, expressed as self-defense against foreignness: • support interethnic communication and community life • avoid bureaucratic barriers • promote balance between self-esteem and respect for others • Avoidance of political manipulation depends more on individual goodwill than on government measures