13 JEMIE 11 (2014)
National Minorities between Protection and Empowerment: Towards a Theory of Empowerment

handle is hein.journals/jemie2014 and id is 123 raw text is: Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe
JEM     IE     Vol 13, No 2, 2014, 11-29
Copyright 0 ECMI 2014
This article is located at:
National Minorities between Protection and Empowerment: Towards
a Theory of Empowerment
Tove H. Malloy*
European Centre for Minority Issues
It is widely assumed that national minorities can experience a transition from
protection to empowerment. This is also the assumption of most normative
instruments aimed at protecting national minorities. Theoretically, however, there
is no coherent notion of empowerment of minorities let alone a description of the
processes that lead to empowerment on the basis of minority protection schemes.
Thus, there is a gap in our knowledge of both the concept and its implementation
with regard to national minorities. This article seeks to begin unpacking the
notion of empowerment and its relation to protection. It provides first a brief
overview of the literature on national minority issues arguing that the
overwhelming use of the institutional approach has prevented a subjectivist view
of national minorities as actors. Next, it examines the existing definitions of
empowerment to explore the actor-oriented nature of the concept. In the main
section the article begins the journey towards a theory of empowerment, drawing
on the work of Elisheva Sadan and a number of other scholars. It focuses on the
empowerment of communities, as the aim is to examine minority group
empowerment. The second half of the article seeks to connect the theory of
empowerment with the notion of rights; the capability to claim rights is of vital
importance here. This brings in Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum's capability
theory. Finally, the article connects the theories with reality, seeking to
operationalize empowerment through an analysis of the social structure of
protection (European minority rights regime) and collective agency (human and
social capital). In the concluding section, it is argued that the structure and agency
approach provides a good tool for analysing the transition of minority actors from
protection to empowerment. This article is based on a discussion paper circulated
to the participants of the workshop on National Minorities between protection
and empowerment: Contemporary minority politics in Europe held at the
European Consortium for Political Research ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops
in Mainz, Germany, 2013.'
Keywords: empowerment; protection; action-oriented; capability theory
The space between protection and empowerment of national minorities has not been
defined adequately in the academic literature. This may be due to the fact that the
Director, European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI), Flensburg, Germany. Email:


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