Thursday, August 03, 2006

Who is a Scandinavian?

Kottke has a nice discussion of the question of "Who is a Scandinavian"? -- does it include the Icelanders, who live a long way away? Or the Finns, who speak a funny language? Kottke has a lot of good fun with it, but he might of noticed that the issue is in no way limited to Scandinavians. It's the kind of muddiness you just have to expect when you consider any culture. Was Cleopatra an Egyptian? Are the Tasmanians British? What did the Byzanatines have in mind when they described themselves as "The Romans" while fighting wars against, well, Rome?

Wiki has an interesting discussion of the definition of "Arab:"

Most people who consider themselves Arabs do so on the basis of the overlap of the political and linguistic definitions. However, some members of groups which fulfill both criteria reject the identity on the basis of the genealogical definition; Lebanese Maronites, for example, may reject the Arab label in favor of a narrower Phoenician-Lebanese national identity (although Maronites originate from the Syrian interior and Phonecians lived on the coasts of Syria and Lebanon), as do many Coptic and Muslim Egyptians who embrace the continuation of their ancient heritage. Groups using a non-Arabic liturgical language are especially likely to consider themselves non-Arab. Not many people consider themselves Arab on the basis of the political definition without the linguistic one—thus, Kurds or Berbers do not usually identify themselves as Arab—but some do (for instance, some Berbers do consider themselves Arabs, and Kurds are cousins of the Persians).

Kottke does overlook one essential point. The Moomins are definitely Scandinavian.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, with the Byzantine Empire (aka the Eastern Roman Empire), it's important to note that the capital of the Roman Empire moved east from Rome to what's now Istanbul (not Constantinople) in the reign of, duh, Constantine. And then power struggles ensued, with the Eastern provinces and the Western provinces both claiming to be the "true" inheritors of the "Roman Empire". Note that the Eastern folks managed to stick around a thousand years longer than the Western empire.

-Random Kottke-reading former historian