The expulsion of the Sudeten Germans : a breakdown in the ethnic boundary maintenance mechanisms / by Andrei Villen Bell.
This dissertation addresses the subject of collective identity from the anthropological perspective. It begins with a wide historical panorama of Czech history. It then examines the concept of the boundary maintenance mechanisms and how they manifested themselves in the Czech/German case. It then surveys the scholarly literature on nationalism to determine the role that nationalism played in the interethnic confrontations in Central and Eastern Europe. Finally, it examines contemporary media and various statistical data to address the role of Ethnos and State in collective identity and nation-building. The mass immigration of ethnic Germans into early medieval Bohemia created a large minority community and led to the development of a strong ethnic identity among Bohemia's Czechs. The intercommunal conflict that ensued shaped the entire history of the country. Although the nature of the conflict changed with each historical period, the conflict itself remained a permanent feature of Czech history. It came to an end only with the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans in 1945-47. The dynamics of this long conflict confirm the importance of Fredrik Barth's boundary maintenance mechanisms. Despite constant interaction and intermarriage, each of these two ethnic groups retained its collective identity. The pattern of the conflict fits the paradigm of punctuated equilibrium (developed by Stephen Jay Gould in evolutionary biology), in which long periods of quiescence alternate with eruptions of intercommunal strife triggered by religious or ideological struggles. After each eruption, new terms of the equilibrium were imposed or renegotiated. The boundary maintenance mechanisms are thus instrumental in preserving the equilibrium between groups. For as long as the mechanisms are retained, the intermingling ethnies can continue their coexistence. When the mechanisms break down and renegotiation fails or is rejected, expulsion or genocide follow. The policy of expulsion, now popularly known as "ethnic cleansing," signifies the final breakdown in the Barthian boundary maintenance mechanisms.
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