===> The expression « minority »…

…oftentimes arouses heated controversies on international, European and national levels ; it remains a difficult concept to define. Marked by extremely diversified uses according to the political, legal or social context, it acquires different meanings, all of which, however, adhere to the idea of a distinction, even an opposition between minority and majority. We speak, for example, of civil minorities, national minorities, religious minorities, linguistic minorities, ethnic and / or cultural minorities, etc. Minorities are present in many countries throughout the world.

In its resolution 1201,

…the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe defines members of a national minority as individuals who :
• Reside within the national territory of a State of which they have also acquired citizenship,
• Have long-standing, lasting and strong ties with this State,
• Have ethnic, cultural, religious or linguistic characteristics,
• Are sufficient in number, although they are fewer than the rest of the population of that State or of a given region of that State,
• Are committed to preserving the characteristics which constitute their identity, including culture, traditions, religion or language.


===> This political and legal definition of the minority…

can be supplemented by a sociological approach that allows the phenomenon of minority to be regarded as a constructed social relationship structuring social reality. In this sense, the minority is also seen as characteristic of a human community, endowed with an identity consciousness, socio-economically dominated or considering themselves as such, and possessing identity characteristics different from those of the majority. The minority would therefore not exist by itself. However, what appears to be central to this concept is the process of “minorization”, the situation of domination, the vulnerability, even the exclusion of the groups thus identified. Depending on the circumstances, the minority issue could therefore also cross the gender gap, the disability issue, but also concern more broadly « all groups whose existence is not covered by the statements of legitimacy of a society”.


===> Other than the question of defining the concept,

…there are a number of political and legal difficulties which hinder the solution of problems encountered by minorities in a global way: the recognition of the existence of minorities by States, the list of rights to be conferred on minorities, the opposition between individual and collective rights, the issue of their place in contemporary societies, the dichotomy of “integrationism” versus multiculturalism, etc.


===> The issue of minorities is therefore a major problem

…for governments and represents a great challenge and a highly complex problem for social work. The issue is a throwback to the question of diversity in European societies and its mode of social and political management. While international texts have laid the foundations for issues regarding the management of diversity (« migratory flows, gender, generations, and disabilities »), the dominant culture persists in its difficulty in taking into account questions concerning the best way to live together with respect for cultural diversity and human rights. One of the major challenges of our contemporary societies is to reconcile cultural diversity and social justice, and thus institutionalize a harmonious coexistence between different concepts of the world, contribute to the issue of recognition, and that of the free access to visibility of individuals who to this day seem invisible despite their visibility in the public eye. As Zygmunt Bauman pointed out, there are friends and enemies, and there are foreigners (including all minorities). There is an opposition between interiority and exteriority. The majority does not perceive its own culture or identity; it considers this natural, as a foregone conclusion. What is the place of culture for minorities? Inevitably within, on the exterior, in between? Or nowhere? In this case, how can minority culture, ethnicity, gender, and disability not become political categories intended to counteract the denial of one’s identity, achieve a more positive social identity, or improve one’s social position? How best to defend and insure human rights? What can be done to promote peaceful coexistence between minorities and majorities in European States and in the world?


===> The international symposium

…which will take place on October 12th and 13th, 2017 at the Catholic University of Lille will focus on bringing to light the political, social and identity-related dynamics that contribute to the emergence of the minority phenomenon in various countries int te world. We will seek to reflect on the relationship between nationalism, citizenship, democracy, and how cultural diversity is to be managed. Moreover, we hope that this international meeting, bringing together diversified points of view and knowledge, will promote the passage from invisibility to recognition of minority situations and groups, and open new horizons for international social work.


===> The following themes will be discussed

…during the two day symposium organized with world wide colleagues of the ERIS Group (European Research Institute in Social Work), at the Social Institute of Lille / Catholic University : ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, linguistic minorities, national minorities, religious groups, the elderly, persons with disabilities etc.