Specialised Themes
Thèmes Spécialisés

14. Minority cultures in relation to dominant majorities
14. Cultures minoritaires et majorités dominantes

Tuesday, 8 August, 14:00-17:00
Mardi, 8 août de 14h à 17h

Building A, Auditorium 2

Shulamit Volkov, Israel

Max Engman, Finland

Interest in minorities and their cultures has recently become a major theme of historical research. Based on the eight papers prepared for this session, the discussion in Oslo 2000 will focus upon the various ways in which minorities endeavored to preserve their uniqueness, often under direct or indirect pressures to assimilate. We shall try to take advantage of the possibilities offered by the international setting of Oslo 2000 in order to deal with some little-known cases, taken from all parts of the world, occuring in different historical periods.

A classic case is of course that of the European Jews, known to have preserved a separate cultural identity for generations. Questioning their generally accepted isolation during the late medieval period will serve as a proper opening for our deliberations. The dilemmas of contact vs. isolation will thereafter be examined in relation to other religious minorities, such as the Huguenots in the Colony of the Cape during the late 17th century, or the Christian and Jewish minorities in Othoman Damascus. Ethnic minorities, trying to operate under similar tensions will also be examined, such as, for instance, the Chinese in Vietnam of the French peiod or the tribal groups in the remote Indian province of Tripura. Everywhere pressures to abandon uniqueness will be contrasted with pressures to uphold it, while the multi-cultural context of empires will serve as the most likely context for these recurring tensions.

Interestingly, it is the historical narrative of minority groups that emerge as a major tactics for cultural self-preservation, though it too can sometimes paradoxically help achieve a measure of cultural integration. In addition to the case studies mentioned above, some of which indirectly touch upon this issue, we shall directly treat the historiography of the American Indians in the United States, the peoples of the Caucasus under Soviet rule and the Kurds in the Turkish Republic. The political causes and implications of complex cultural processes will thus become apparent, giving our discussion an added contemporary urgency and relevance.



Specialised Theme 13
Thème Spécialisé 13



Specialised Theme 15
Thème Spécialisé 15