"Small Peoples”: Ethnonational Existential Uncertainty of Israeli Jews and Québécois
This paper focuses on "small peoples,” a term coined by Milan Kundera to denote ethnic communities that lack a "sense of an eternal past and future.” My aim is twofold: to expose this phenomenon and to both theoretically and empirically explore its bases. I first describe this phenomenon, which I believe is invaluable to the understanding of both ethnicity and security. I further argue that in modern times, "small peoples” are marked by a heightened and historically prolonged sense of uncertainty about the viability of their future-driven national survival (epistemic insecurity) and the validity of their past-based ethnic identity (ontological insecurity). Empirically, I analyze two distinct "small peoples”—Israeli Jews and French Canadians (Québécois)—and suggest that while the former have been plagued by quandaries about survival, the latter have been no less concerned with insecurity about identity.