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From Irredentism to Constructive Reconciliation? Germany and its Minorities in Poland and the Czech Republic

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Language, Ethnicity and the State
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Abstract

In contemporary scholarship, definitions of ethnicity vary greatly. A basic distinction can be made between a primordial school, which holds that ‘ethnicity is so deeply rooted in historical experience that it should properly be treated as a given in human relations’, and an instrumentalist school, which argues that ‘ethnicity is primarily a practical resource that individuals and groups deploy opportunistically to promote their more fundamental security and economic interests and that they may even discard when alternative affiliations promise a better return’ (Esman 1994, p. 10f.). The tangible aspects of ethnicity, such as customs, traditions, language or religion, and the social and political implications that are emphasized by instrumentalists are important components of an individual’s or group’s ethnic identity since they allow boundaries to be more easily drawn between in-group and out-group. Yet, they cannot fully explain the phenomenon in relation to the intense emotions that ‘ethnic issues’ generate.

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© 2001 Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited

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Wolff, S. (2001). From Irredentism to Constructive Reconciliation? Germany and its Minorities in Poland and the Czech Republic. In: O’Reilly, C.C. (eds) Language, Ethnicity and the State. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781403914187_4

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