Minority Rights

Hurst Hannum

in International Relations

ISBN: 9780199743292
Published online June 2012 | | DOI:
Minority Rights


Many disciplines have analyzed the relationship between minorities and majorities and within minority communities themselves. Given that the current topic is minority “rights,” however, this bibliographic guide will focus primarily on the legal and normative aspects of the topic, although norms cannot and should not be entirely divorced from sociological, political, or economic analysis. In addition, because the actual situation of minorities varies greatly from country to country and culture to culture, the emphasis will be on minority rights as they have been articulated at the international level. Information on the situation of particular minorities within specific countries should be sought elsewhere, although sources such as the reports of the London-based Minority Rights Group referred to in this article offer a good starting point. Nonetheless, minority issues cannot be easily distinguished from several related political and legal concepts. For this reason, references are included here to works on nationalism and ethnic conflict, although both are complex topics in their own right. Other related concepts (not included here) include the state, sovereignty, democracy, human rights, and self-determination. No international consensus exists on the definition of minority, and none of the major international instruments includes such a definition in its text. While this remains a contested issue (see the section on Philosophy and Definitions), historical and contemporary usage by states, diplomats, and many scholars indicates that the concept of minority in the international legal context is generally limited to persons and/or groups characterized by a particular set of objective characteristics; that is, national, ethnic (including racial), religious, and/or linguistic difference. This bibliographic article will, therefore, address only these internationally recognized categories of minorities and will not consider broader categories of groups of individuals who are marginalized, subordinated, or discriminated against, such as women, children, people with mental or physical disabilities, noncitizens, or sexual/gender minorities. Indigenous peoples constitute a distinct category not identical with minorities, and the development of internationally recognized indigenous rights has proceeded separately. However, they are considered by international bodies to fall within the scope of “minority rights,” and institutions that deal with human rights in Africa and Asia often do not draw a clear distinction between the two. Thus, at least a preliminary guide to indigenous rights is also addressed in this article.

Article.  6722 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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