What's in a word? The minority concept revisited

Conference and PhD course 7 - 8 April 2011

Minority Studies and The Research School of Regional Studies

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. The wisdom of the children's chant is limited. "Words can also be deeds. Speech can also be conduct" as Jerome Neu has succinctly put it. We do things with words and in the eyes of some scholars this is the reason why we should be very cautious about talking of minorities. Indeed, some have argued that there is no place for the word in the academia. The problem allegedly lies buried with the assumptions behind and consequences of the use of the word. According to its critics, the use of the concept tends to naturalize cultural and historical differences; to invite misguided notions of clearly bounded groups; to cover up social inequalities and to entangle the scholar in certain normative and political agendas. Talk of minorities is the language of ethno-political entrepreneurs or rights activists. It is the possible object but not a conceptual tool of academic analysis. In short, and stretching W.B. Gallie's phrase, it seems that "minority" is an existentially contested concept. That is, the debate is not only about its proper use and meaning. It is about its very existence and use in the scholarly context.

This conference seeks, at the same time, to take the objections seriously and to look beyond them in order to examine the presuppositions behind the given positions. The aim is to facilitate a more focused and deliberate examination of the problems and possibilities pertaining to the scholarly use of the minority concept. That is, there is a need to scrutinize the reasons behind the typical discontents, but there is also a need for more sustained examination of the possible ways in which scholars can study minorities and use the minority concept without committing to dubious epistemological and ontological ideas. Ultimately, rather than adding to the amount of partisan normative positions on the topic, we hope to prompt a more explorative discussion and more theoretically sustained accounts of the minority concept and the debates about it.

Invited speakers:
Prof. Richard Jenkins, University of Sheffield
Prof. Margaret Walker, Arizona State University
Dir. Riva Kastoryano, Centre for International Studies and Research, Paris
Prof. Eric Heintze, University of London
Prof. John F. Dovidio, Yale University

Faculty of Humanities, University of Copenhagen, Southern Campus, Building 23, lecture hall 23-2-47, Njalsgade 126, 2300 Copenhagen S.
The entrance to the building is through the doors where building 23 and 24 meet.

Two-day conference with invited speakers and workshop for PhD students, max 15 participants. The workshop will imply presentation of papers from the PhD students with response from the invited speakers and the organizers. The aim of the PhD course is to further the students' ability to work with the minority concept and minority related issues in a reflected way. PhD students are invited to submit papers (8 - 10 pages).

All participants are required to prepare for the course by reading the texts from the reading list (approximately 1000 pages). Texts will be uploaded at the website.

PhD students will be granted 3,8 ECTS for participation with paper and 2,3 ECTS without paper.

Deadline for registration: 1 March, 2011
Deadline for abstracts: 10 March, 2011
Deadline for papers: 1 April, 2011