How does a minority come to be? In an unusual project, a notable group of French and American scholars take the view that minorities are socially constructed. Their original studies of specific historical examples produce a series of stimulating and provocative essays useful and enjoyable for specialists and the general reader alike.
Spawned from a conference organized by the journals Annales and Comparative Studies in Society and History in concert with the Center for Historical Research at l'EHESS in Paris and the Department of History at the University of Michigan, this collection contrasts studies of Afro-Americans in the United States, French Protestants, notables in Renaissance Florence, religious minorities in the Ottoman Empire, Muslim and Chinese traders in Southeast Asia, the native peoples of Spanish America, lower-caste Indians, ethnic minorities in the Soviet Union, Australian aborigines, and American and French responses to AIDS to reveal valuable information about how minorities come to be constructed within societies. Some of the minorities considered are identified primarily in terms of their ethnicity, some by social class, and some by religion (Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim); a final essay asks whether the victims of AIDS constitute a minority at all.
With its cross-cultural emphasis, this book will be a valuable addition to courses on diversity, ethnicity, and cultural comparison. It is destined to be a useful reference for undergraduate and research libraries and a much-consulted work for specialists on each of the societies considered.
André Burguière is Research Director, l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (l'EHESS) in Paris. Raymond Grew is Professor of History Emeritus, University of Michigan.