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The Emergence of Minorities in the Middle EastThe Politics of Community in French Mandate Syria$
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Benjamin Thomas White

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780748641871

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748641871.001.0001

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Minorities, Majorities and the Nation-state

Minorities, Majorities and the Nation-state

(p.21) Chapter 1 Minorities, Majorities and the Nation-state
The Emergence of Minorities in the Middle East

Benjamin Thomas White

Edinburgh University Press

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

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