Accepted paper:

How to be a minority: ethical conduct and government of difference in Europe

Authors:

Dace Dzenovska (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

I argue that within the European political landscape the subject positions of ‘majority’ and ‘national minority’ are linked by relations of likeness rather than difference, as both are predicated on adherence to a particular vision of virtuous life as a life of cultural belonging.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, I analyze relations of difference and likeness that animate the Latvian state's national minority politics. I argue that within the European political landscape the subject positions of 'majority' and 'national minority' are linked by relations of likeness rather than difference, because both are predicated on adherence to a particular vision of virtuous life as a life of cultural belonging. On the basis of an ethnographic analysis of the making of national minorities in Latvia after socialism, I show that the subject position of 'national minority' is most visible in relation to the ways in which conduct articulates the self, the polity and the state. In the Latvian context, for example, it matters whether someone joins a minority cultural association or a political protest against the state's language politics. The former type of conduct is constitutive of a national minority subject that is not the same as the majority subject, but is sympathetic to the majority subject and thus in a relation of likeness to it. The latter type of conduct is constitutive of a subject that is neither the majority subject nor a subject sympathetic to the majority subject and therefore in a relation of difference to it. In that sense, I trace the ways in which seemingly humanist dispositions, such as sympathy, are structured by historically particular political projects, as well as by political rationalities constitutive of the European landscapes of 'Self' and 'Other.'

panel P26
Nationalism, democracy and morality: a historical and anthropological approach to the role of moral sentiments in contemporary politics