Ethnic Enclaves: Empowering or Marginalizing?

The modern world tends to the cultural integration and assimilation of different ethnic groups. In fact, the ethnic diversity is a characteristic of the modern world. On analyzing the current situation in many countries, it is possible to estimate that the epoch of national states has practically gone, instead, multinational states emerge, in which representatives of different ethnic and cultural groups live. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the USA, which was traditionally a multinational country, but the trend to the growing ethnic and cultural diversity became particularly strong in leading European countries, such as the UK and France. In such a situation, the existence of ethnic enclaves may be viewed as a kind of anachronism since ethnic enclaves represent ethnic communities which attempt to preserve and maintain their language and cultural traditions. However, today, the question arises: whether ethnic enclaves lead to empowering or marginalizing of their representatives.

As a rule, ethnic enclaves are formed, when an ethnic group constitutes a minority of the population of a country or a region. At the same time, the members of the ethnic enclave live together in one community. In fact, ethnic enclaves represent homogeneous ethnic groups, but the problem is that these ethnic groups are minorities in the general population of a country or region. In this respect, it is possible to speak about marginalization of ethnic enclaves and negative effects of ethnic enclaves.

In fact, one of the examples of the negative impact of ethnic enclaves on the life of a country is Yugoslavia. The country had Kosovo, the Albanian enclave, which started to struggle for its independence when Albanians felt oppressed by Serbs, who were the dominant ethnic group in Yugoslavia. Therefore, the case of Kosovo may be viewed as an example of marginalization of ethnic enclaves and this case is worth analyzing in order to understand possible risks and threats that accompany the existence of ethnic enclaves.

Firstly, ethnic enclaves unite ethnic minorities in small communities, which often turn to be in isolation from the rest of the society. As a result, members of the enclave feel their difference, but they realize that they are minority and the dominant ethnic group often tends to ignore needs and interests of ethnic enclaves, especially in countries where democratic traditions are weak. At the same time, even in the most democratic country, ethnic enclaves cannot help from the cultural isolation. People living in ethnic enclaves live in their own small communities, they speak their language, observe their traditions, but, as soon as they go out of their enclave, they are in the absolutely different environment. As a result, they feel as if they are strangers, even though they live in one and the same country as the rest of the society does, but the existence of enclave enhances their sense of cultural difference and, in a way, leads to the isolation of enclave’s members.

On the other hand, ethnic enclaves are probably the most effective way of the maintenance of the cultural and national identity. In fact, ethnic groups which are integrated in a multicultural society are likely to lose their cultural identity and traditions because people get assimilated into the multinational cultural environment. As a result, within several generations, cultural traditions of an ethnic group can be totally forget their cultural background.

Thus, ethnic enclaves can have controversial effects on the life of people, but, in a democratic country, ethnic enclave can maintain cultural traditions and language of different ethnic groups.

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