Ethnic indifference – Fredrik Barth’s conceptual blind spot

  • Marek Jakoubek
Keywords: Ethnicity, Ethnic indifference, Fredrik Barth, Balkans


It has been already pointed out by some of the earlier critics that Fredrik Barth in his seminal “Introduction” to Ethnic Groups and Boundaries (1969) defined ethnicity in an ahistorical way as a universal phenomenon intrinsic not only to some societies or historical periods but to mankind in general. Simultaneously Barth understands ethnic identity as a basic and dominant identity, to which other types of identity are subordinated. In this conceptual frame, ethnically indifferent groups, i.e., the groups in which the us-them dichotomisation does not proceed on the ethnic level, and whose members think and act primarily in non-ethnic terms and their identity repertoire lacks ethnic identification, find themselves in a kind of conceptual blind spot. This article deals with relationships of two ethnically indifferent groups in the territory of Bulgaria in the first half of the twentieth century. This historical case study serves both as a kind of development and criticism of Barth’s approach and an elaboration of the concept of ethnic indifference.