The Dark Side of Minority Policies

Occasionally, discourses and practices justified by the needs for minority protection are ultimately aimed at diminishing equal dignity of human beings, establishing repressive mechanisms and limiting individual liberties.

The WP seeks to identify the cases where the ideas of minority protection are applied contrary to their substance, elaborate the criteria for the selection of such cases, analyze of the causes and consequences. This research agenda provides for discussing the limited applicability of the notions related to minority protection as well as the distinction and interdependence between discourses and practices.

The practically relevant output must be a set of recommendations concerning deficiencies in minority protection.   


Research Task 1: The Communist Heritage in Ethnic Policies.

The research task comprises a project which envisages establishing a collaborative research network on Communist/Soviet legacy in ethnic policies and its impact on the current regimes of minority protection. The project’s point of departure is the assumption that the Communist regimes invested a lot in diversity management in their own way, and that the past institutions and norms may still affect the existing state of affairs. This project is to last three years and to include an inception workshop, a series of members’ meetings and a concluding conference. The project seeks to arrange a multidisciplinary discussion on the issues of whether the effect of Communist institutions was still persistent and of what should and could be done with this legacy. The list of the issues to be addressed includes inter alia interpretations of social equality, ethnocultural development, ethnic representation and autonomy; responses of the communist regimes to the challenges caused by liberalisation of the late 1980s; the role of symbolic policies and “systemic hypocrisy” (in terms of Nils Brunsson) in coping with ethnicity-based claims. Of special interest is the question about the potential conflict of the Communist legacies in ethnic policies with the so-called European standards of minority protection. In the light of many former communist countries’ full fledged membership in the EU, the project also seeks to assess these legacies’ impact on diversity policies in a broader European context and on relations between EU and its neighbours. It is expected that the project’s output besides the network itself will be a series of publications.


Research Task 2: Risks Stemming from Modern Ideas of Diversity Management and the Ways they can be curbed.

The project is aimed at identifying illiberal and repressive practices of state and non-state actors (including non-interference of the state) prompted or justified by misinterpretations of minority protection, non-discrimination and related ideas. Identification of potential research topics and objectives and assessment of their relevance must lead to the establishment of a collaborative research network and/or launch of a research project with ECMI’s involvement.

Of particular importance must the problem of governmental non-interference in community-based illiberal practices, restrictive interpretation of “minorities”, symbolic hierarchies of ethnic groups and the outcomes, and encoding of social disparities in terms of culture and intergroup relations.

The issues addressed here include the relationship between categorization and exclusion as well as the issue of consequences of categorization which aims at examining traditional minorities with and without kin states.

A special focus may be on international law as a cause of problems for minorities. Claims of minorities and academic discussions on minorities often refer to problematic concepts. These include concepts like self-determination and nationalism. These concepts complicate matters, although they are by some seen as part of the solution and not the problem. The objective is twofold. Firstly, the troublemakers need to be identified clearly. Secondly, it needs to be discussed whether they indeed are troublemakers or only perceived as such by the relevant actors.

The cluster seeks to arrange a kickoff seminar, to participate according to the seminar’s outcomes in some further joint projects, and to host PhD students and post-docs working on the respective issues. The cluster also plans an interdisciplinary workshop on international norms and actors as troublemakers. The outcome shall be a joint publication discussing the different views on troublemakers.

The academic output of the project shall be a series of publications; the practical relevance of the project is identification of the deficiencies and pitfalls in the existing minority-related mechanisms and of the way they can be overcome.


Research Task 3: Nation Branding Through Minority Rights

Like companies, states can brand themselves on given issues. This is known as nation branding. The objective in the RT is to consider whether minority rights might be used by states in order to sell a good image to the international community. The concept of nation branding is often understood with a negative connotation. In the context of minority rights, we could use the term nation branding when a state sells a good minority image but does not follow up on its international obligations and promises and maybe even applies double standards to others and itself.

The output of the project shall be a publication addressing the different dimensions of and issues related to nation branding via minority policies.


Research Task 4: External Factors in the Shaping of Minority Claims

Generally, minorities have a good idea about what kind of protection they want. Minorities, however, may also find inspiration for their claims in external sources. These may for example be treaties. This means they may make claims they did not think of without the treaties. Minorities may not only be influenced by treaties but also by kin-states, other minorities they keep in contact with or even international organizations. Which role external factors actually play in the formulation of minority claims is at the centre of attention of this research task.

The aim is a publication which maps the external factors. The work shall be coordinated by ECMI staff and carried out by PhD-students, external interested scholars and interns.

ECMI founders:

The German Federal GovernmentThe German
Federal Government
The Danish GovernmentThe Danish
The Federal State Schleswig-HolsteinThe Federal State