Ethnic Stereotypes in the Age of Nationalism: Problems and Challenges. An Introduction

Etnické stereotypy v období nacionalizmu: problémy a výzvy

The article represents the introduction to a revue issue which is devoted to the question of ethnic stereotypes research. The author defines stereotypes as simplified mental images and representations of the world, describes their basic functions, including their cognitive, psychological and socializing functions, and their importance in forming and strengthening a group identity of an individual. The attention is paid to the significance of ethnic stereotypes in the period of modern nationalism, to the ways of their depiction in various media and mostly to their application in political dominance struggle in which ethnic and national stereotypes became tools for political manipulation. Despite the fact that there is the current trend and effort to overcome ethnic and national stereotypes, also with the intentional help of the European Union, purposeful endeavor is required. This struggle could be supported by the research of Slovak social scientists, including historians. They point out the same functions and schemes of stereotype emergence and mutual connection of stereotypical images about "typical features" of particular ethnic minorities. All this is conducted by the analysis of stereotypical images of various ethnic minorities in multicultural atmosphere of the Habsburg Monarchy and its succession states. It is therefore important to scrutinize the stereotypical images about "us" and "the others" by reciprocal relation and comparison (auto- and hetero-stereotypes, mutual ethnic stereotypes of particular dominant and subordinate nations). The author mentions several conclusions from the latest research works of Slovak historians and social anthropologists and highlights possible directions of future research. The author considers a comparative aspect and the examination of ethnic stereotypes in the context of different types of collective identities (regional, confessional, racial, social) as the most crucial. Furthermore, the author emphasizes the importance of the research into the reciprocal interconnection of ethnic, social and racial stereotypes, especially in the depiction of Romanies and Jews. The study of ethnic and national stereotypes is also a very significant field in historiography.