Re-imagining Sleswig: language and identity in the German-Danish borderlands - understanding the regional, national and transnational dimensions of minority identity
Tarvet, Ruairidh Thomas
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This thesis examines the interplay between regional, national and transnational dimensions of identity and language in the Danish and, to a lesser extent, the German minority communities of Sleswig. It also investigates the relationship between subjective and objective interpretations of minority membership. Obtaining data from a survey study carried out on 208 individuals from the Sleswigian minorities, this thesis maps out the composition of minority identity in the 21st century, whilst also using historical evidence as an explanation for the findings. The study shows that the minorities function as two closely-linked and supplementary groups to the national majorities. German language dominates most spheres in both minorities, yet bilingualism and code-switching are essential to minority life and defining group identity. Furthermore, whilst national identities are of a lesser importance to the minorities today than regional or transnational identities, minority identity is still nonetheless hybridised from its roots in the national cultures and languages of Denmark and Germany. The minorities are thus able to “cherry-pick” social, economic, political and linguistic capital from both nations. I argue that although minority identity and language are constantly under negotiation, legitimising a claim to minority identity by way of subjective will is nevertheless juxtaposed with meeting certain objective criteria expected by members of the communities, such as bilingualism, ancestral and geographical links to the region, an understanding of regional history and shared political beliefs. The study seeks originality by mapping the interaction between the regional, national and transnational dimensions of identity in the Danish and German minorities and by examining the influence of social media on identity expression in Sleswig. It also provides a fresh critical understanding of the impact of language on minority identity formation across recent generations in Sleswig. Finally, the thesis proposes a theoretical framework for the study of hybrid and dual minority identities, rooted in theories from nationalism studies, sociology, anthropology and sociolinguistics.