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Societies and Spaces in Contact

Between Convergence and Divergence


Edited By Milan Bufon, Tove H. Malloy and Colin Williams

This volume represents an inter-disciplinary discussion of some fundamental categories of convergence and divergence, focusing in particular on issues of both social integration and devolution related to ethnos as the space of identity, and demos as the space of polity. The aims of the book are to assess past developments within crucial parts of Central Europe where both conflict and coexistence potentials seem to best represent the actual “unity in diversity” managing dilemma in the continent; to provide an analysis of current approaches to minority protection, language planning, spatial and social cross-border and inter-cultural policies; and to develop an evaluation of the future trends and opportunities for co-operation and re-integration within a local and broader operational context.

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Regional Development Policies: Ethno-Cultural Minorities as Actors and Agents of Change? (Tove H. Malloy)


Tove H. Malloy

Do ethno-cultural minority groups interact with mainstream society in planning the future of communities and regions? The answer to the question is in most cases ‘yes’ – ethno-cultural minorities do care, and they do engage. However, there is very little academic research and debate about this in Minority Studies. The literature focuses mainly on minority rights and the protection of ethno-cultural identity. Rarely are members of ethno-cultural minority groups seen as actors in their own right. Thus, most of the literature on minority rights and protection sees ethno-cultural minority issues and politics through the lens of paternalism, in the sense of exerting control over ethno-cultural minority groups through legislation and the institutionalisation of their existence and participation in public affairs. This view assumes that members of ethno-cultural minorities are objects in need of directional guidance through law and policy, rather than subjects of common societal integration processes through individual and collective action. Members of ←17 | 18→ethno-cultural minority groups are, therefore, rarely seen as actors directing their own fate, let alone as agents of change influencing societal development.

One reason for this is found in the one-sided scientific approach used in Minority Studies. Scholars of ethno-cultural minority protection rarely speak to colleagues in regional development studies and economics. Occasionally, there have been analyses of the involvement of ethno-cultural groups in cross-border co-operation, such as Interreg programmes, but these have often shown that participation is confined to cultural projects (Malloy et al. 2007). Sociolinguists have...

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