Minority Map and Timeline of Europe: A Transdisciplinary Research Tool and Database

Kilimnik, Forrest
European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI), Germany

Wolf, Sonja
European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI), Germany

Table of contents

The digital humanities are inherently transdisciplinary and leave room for a wide range of approaches while making research results accessible to a worldwide audience (Berry, 2012; Gold, 2012). The importance of establishing innovative research sources and tools has been, and is still being, discussed with great concern across all disciplines and fields. While many research institutions are facing difficulties in providing faculty and students with access to scholarly sources due to high subscription fees, the proliferation of sources online has made it increasingly difficult, especially for young researchers and students, to distinguish high quality, reliable material. Over the last two decades, an increasing number of researchers and institutions have endeavoured to meet this problem head-on by pushing their research into the sphere of digital humanities ( Willinsky, 2006; Laakso et al, 2011).

This lightning talk will present one of these endeavours, the Minority Map and Timeline of Europe (MMTE), which was developed as an open access transdisciplinary research tool and database ( www.mmte.eu ) that provides an impartial perspective and evaluation of minorities, minority issues, and minority-majority relations within all states and regions of Europe. The MMTE is the ongoing digital humanities flagship project of the European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI), an independent and interdisciplinary institution founded in 1996 that conducts practice and policy-oriented research, provides information and documentation, and offers advisory services concerning minority-majority relations in Europe. 

With the aim of providing online open access data, ECMI developed the Ethnopolitical Map of Europe as a means to provide easily accessible documentation regarding minorities in Europe. In 2010, the project was re-evaluated and began re-development as a more comprehensive and interactive research tool designed to reach the widest possible audience today. Considering the inter- and transdisciplinary nature of minority studies, the MMTE is intrinsically crosses and merges disciplines in its approach to and presentation of information. Due to the multifaceted circumstances pertaining to minorities, the research provided by the MMTE incorporates disciplines within the humanities and social sciences, including but not limited to anthropology, cultural geography, economics, history, law, linguistics, political science, and sociology. Applying these different approaches to a digital environment while providing the research and results on minority issues through an interactive and searchable online platform places the MMTE firmly in the sphere of digital humanities.

The state of the art in the field of minority research and studies, which cross disciplinary borders, has increased considerably since the end of the Cold War, owing to the reconfigurations of Europe in the early 1990s (Jackson-Preece, 1998; Malloy, 2005), a process that is still continuing and can be observed in recent developments in Ukraine (Sasse, 2007; Protsyk, 2008), Kosovo (Weller, 2006; Burema, 2012), and Georgia (Trier, 2006/07; Szakonyi, 2007), as well as other states and regions (Bieber, 2006). In addition to security concerns regarding minority groups (Griffiths, 1993; Malloy, 2013), the process of European Union (EU) enlargement has emphasized the cultural, linguistic, and religious diversity of Europe as one of its fundamental features and main strengths (Sasse, Hughes, Gordon, 2004; Gordon, 2007/08; Toggenburg and McLaughlin, 2011). This has resulted in a considerable expansion of scientific literature dealing with minority issues (Kymlicka, 1995; Henrard, 2000; Roter, 2001/02; Thornberry and Martín Estébanez, 2004; Malloy, 2005; Jackson-Preece, 2005; Benedikter, 2008; Rechel, 2009; Galbreath and McEvoy, 2012). Despite the increasing breadth of analysis and action, however, this has also resulted in a scholastic quagmire, with both exceptional and unsatisfactory results. Additionally, a large percentage of the literature and sources are in printed format (for example, Minahan, 2002; Bodlore-Penlaez, 2011), limiting the accessibility as well as the visualization and interactive manner in which to understand the data. With the rise of web-based literature as well as information websites, the digital state of the art has expanded (see, for example, Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe, Europa Diversa, Human Relations Area Files World Cultures, Information Services Enriched Links, Map of Minorities & Regional and Minority Languages in Europe, Minority Rights Information System, and Stateless Nations and Minority Peoples in Europe) although, in many cases, at the price of quality owing at times to the inconsistent application of proper academic standards for referencing the material available online, the lack of systematic updating of the data to reflect current developments, or the presentation of information in a disjointed format that does not lend itself to comparison between different countries or minority groups.

The Minority Map and Timeline of Europe seeks to address this research gap within minority studies by acting as a fully referenced open access research tool that will provide the most comprehensive evaluation and database dealing with minority issues, based upon an interactive format meant to respond to the needs of a variety of users, from academic experts on the topic to policy makers and practitioners, students, and the interested public, including members of minority communities. In fulfilling this role as an even-handed and in-depth research tool and database, the MMTE aims at bringing together varied forms of research as well as researchers for the mutual understanding of Europe’s diverse societies. It will answer a pressing need of the scientific community for credible and reliable information on a topic that is often contested by competing narratives. Acting as a merger between scholarship and service, thereby providing both in-depth peer-reviewed analysis together with easily available information and data, the MMTE is designed to be encyclopaedic in its breadth, cohesive in its structure, and simple in its form. The MMTE focuses on 52 countries within Europe according to a thematic format that promotes consistency, uniformity, and comparison between minorities, countries, and topics. The user interface of the MMTE website – based upon complementary interactive and detailed maps, timelines, and analyses – provides new, varied, and interconnected ways to interpret minority communities. The MMTE utilizes a visual and hands-on approach to present data and information to allow the user to better comprehend relationships and associations concerning minorities and the countries they are living in.

The research and entry writing of the MMTE is divided into three phases. The MMTE is currently in Phase 1, with data and information being actively gathered and entries prepared for uploading. In Phase 1, the Minority-Country Maps provide a sweeping examination of the countries and minority communities residing there. The maps provide general quantitative information together with overviews, fact sheets, and graphs, as well as directories and documentation for the country and select minority communities. While each minority community is important to examine, emphasis is placed on select main communities that are relatively large and/or having a long and distinct relationship to the country they reside in. The information presented in Phase 1 is based on descriptive divisions. The Minority-Country Maps are specifically separated into 6 descriptive categories to allow for clearer examination of issues as well as comparison between entries. Additionally, the information is systematically referenced both concerning sources as well as the responsible authors. A comments section allows for concerns/questions to be made and answered, providing also a forum for discussion among users.

Phase 2 will add further details and a necessary historical dimension through the Minority-Country Timelines, by highlighting key events and periods concerning minority-majority relations. The timelines present in-depth qualitative information and descriptions together with images and videos concerning countries as well as select minority communities. Phase 3 comprises both the Minority Portraits and Country Portraits, which act together as a comprehensive evaluation of the state of affairs concerning the country governments and minorities of Europe. The Minority Portraits present a detailed examination that highlights central themes through a micro perspective that emphasizes the select minority communities’ views of minority-majority relations. The Country Portraits present a detailed examination that highlights central themes through a macro perspective that emphasizes the government views of minority-majority relations.

Once completed, the MMTE will be the central online research tool and database for scholars from all career stages in the field of minority studies, as well as for those carrying out transdisciplinary research. Researchers from both majority and minority communities are invited to contribute information and perspectives in the hope of creating a truly inclusive body of knowledge. The MMTE can be seen as a model for how diverse research today can be brought together and made available and understandable to the largest possible audience. Furthermore, the MMTE is based upon technical advancement on the Internet to visualize relationships that cannot be made visible in non-digital sources. Finally, with its embedded sustainability, the MMTE will remain available for both present-day and future research.

Appendix A

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