Chapter

Minorities, Majorities and the Nation-state

Benjamin Thomas White

in The Emergence of Minorities in the Middle East

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780748641871
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653287 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748641871.003.0025
Minorities, Majorities and the Nation-state

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This chapter explains the circumstances in which the concept of minority came into the international public discourse, as the nation-state became the standard state form after the First World War. It argues that the concept of minority came into widespread usage when it did, after the First World War, because it was only in this period that objective conditions made the term meaningful: the term did not exist earlier because minorities did not exist, although the cultural identities of majorities and minorities did. While some of those conditions were falling into place in the late Ottoman period, it was only during the mandate, in the context of a Syrian nation-state, that the term ‘minority’ was adopted by Syrians and others to describe groups within Syrian society. The ‘minorities question’ became relevant in Syria at the same time as it did in European states. Having identified the origins of the concept, the chapter shows how the usage has escaped those origins. It also explains why minority is a distinctively modern concept, and outlines the developments that gave it meaning.

Keywords: minority; majorities; Syrian nation-state; Syria; nation-state

Chapter.  10508 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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