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Deconstruction is a critical outlook concerned with the relationship between text and meaning.

-Wikipedia, great source of 21th century knowledge

In other words, following on the footstep of Saussure and Derrida – but hopefully with slightly more clarity -, let’s first attempt to know what we are looking at by distancing ourselves from our key concepts and looking at what they mean in our linguistic system. No fancy greek or latin here; the OED definitions will do!

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Minority

1/ The condition or fact of being smaller, inferior, or subordinate in relation to something else.

2/ A small group of people differing from the rest of the community in ethnic origin, religion, language, etc; (now sometimes more generally) any identifiable subgroup within a society, especially one perceived as suffering from discrimination or from relative lack of status or power

3/ Of, belonging to, or constituting a minority; (also) appealing to a small or select group of people. Sometimes, of culture: serious, intellectual highbrow (as opposed to mass)

4/ That forms a minority in a community, nation, etc.; frequently in minority group.

Online Oxford English Dictionary [Accessed 06/05/2016]

Culture

1/ The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.

2/ A refined understanding or appreciation of culture: men of culture

3/ The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.

4/ The attitudes and behaviour characteristic of a particular social group

Online Oxford English Dictionary [Accessed 06/05/2016]

Simple observation. A minority culture is defined in opposition to a cultural majority. Cultural in its ideas, customs and social behaviour but also in its art.
Yet, who defines the minority culture? Whether it is passively or actively, the cultural majority plays the bigger role in the shaping of a minority culture.
The term ‘minority’ suggests inferiority and lack of power and status. Cultural power is ascertained by the spreading of a said group’s cultural beliefs; or at the very least, by the confidence the cultural group has in its own culture and the need for the preservation and active development of said culture.
Very often, as is the case in Alsace, institutions and discourses meant to reinforce this confidence do not belong to the minority culture but are regional manifestations of the cultural majority. This does not mean that the cultural majority necessarily oppresses the minority cultures for which preservation it legislates. This does however shift the definition of culture from an internal and organic process of construction to an external shaping of what is to be preserved as part of a minority culture ad how. The culture of a people is no longer to be found in the observation of their ways of life but in their struggle to preserve their ‘collective imagination‘ (using Benedict Anderson’s terminology on ‘imagined communities'[1]). This collective imagination is a cultural construction, it is what the minority group wishes to oppose to the majority; it is what they feel is ‘characteristic of [their] particular social group’; it is not a survey of their ways  and beliefs.
A minority culture is political.
A minority culture can also be defined as ‘appealing to a smaller or selected group of people’, namely in opposition to ‘mainstream/ mass culture’. ‘Culture’, in this case, should be understood as a ‘refined understanding/ appreciation of things’. This definition seems most suited to discuss classical music & opera, culinary refinement, arthouse cinema… However could it be applied to local popular cultures? The aforementioned occurrences of ‘minority’ culture, though attributed to a ‘select group of people’, are the prerogative of a powerful group. They are traditionally associated to the upper classes who have the political and financial means to assert their cultural and economical relevance – superiority even.
Local cultures do not possess that same power because they are more often than not the product of popular beliefs and lifestyles. They also go against the political agenda of powerful political forces. While high-brow art is global, local culture is inherent to a specific geographical area. Culinary traditions, economical practices (farming, mining…) and more are related to the resources of a specific space and are therefore hardly exportable. They also go against the laws of economics; they appeal to a restricted numbers of consumers as well as generating very little profit [2].
The definition of ‘minority culture’ highlights the difficulties for it to be sustainable in a highly political and economic environment. ‘Minority culture’ only exists as something to defend against the norm. Whether a question of ethnicity, gender or language, etc., the minority is constantly at risk of being overlooked, or worse, at risk of disappearing. And it is precisely why this characteristic is at the core of every minority culture. It defines much of its workings in terms of definition, preservation and exhibition.
[1] ANDERSON, Benedict (1991). Imagined communities: reflections on the origins and spread of nationalism. London: Verso.
[2]The author of this article is not foolish enough to believe economical sustainable not to be a defining criteria in the survival of minority culture.

 

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