SCS 3720 Lecture Notes - Herbert J. Gans, Symbolic Ethnicity, Irish Canadian

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Ethnic and Racial Choice in Canada:
-Canadians are freer to choose their ethnic identity
-people w/ the most freedom to choose are white European Canadians
-ex. Irish used to be associated w/ negative implications but have achieved upward mobility and blended
w/ the majority
-thus they no longer find their identity imposed on them
-ethnicity is largely a symbolic matter
Herbert Gans:
-defines symbolic ethnicity as a “nostalgic allegiance to the culture of the immigrant generation or that of the old
country; a love for pride in a tradition that can be felt w/o having to be incorporated in everyday behaviour”
-most African Canadians lack the freedom to enjoy symbolic ethnicity
-their identity as a people of African descent is not an option b/c a considerable number of non-blacks are
racists and impose the identity on them
-racism is the belief that a visible characteristic of a group indicates group inferiority and justifies discrimination
-Malcolm X noted how racial identity can be imposed on people
-he states that it doesn’t matter to a racist whether a black person is a professor, genius, or fool
-where racism is common, racial identities are compulsory and at the forefront of self-identity
-relations among racial and ethnic groups can take different forms
Theories of Race and Ethnic Relations
Ecological Theory:
-Robert Park:
-proposed an influential theory of how race and ethnic relations change over time
-focuses on struggle for territory
-distinguishes five stages by which conflict among ethnic and racial groups emerges and is resolved:
1. Invasionone racial or ethnic groups tries to move into the territory of another
2. Resistancethe established group tried to defend its territory and institutions against the intruding group by
legal means or violence or both
3. Competitionif they cannot drive out the newcomers, the 2 groups compete for scarce resources, including
housing, jobs, public park space, and political positions
4. Accommodation and cooperationover time they work out an understanding of what they should segregate,
divide and share
-segregation involves the spatial and institutional separation of racial or ethnic groups ex. They can
segregate churches, heritage associations, newspapers
5. Assimilationthe process by which a minority group blends into the majority population and eventually
disappears as a distinct group
-Park argued that assimilation occurs as accommodation and cooperation develop trust and
-ethnic groups fuse socially and culturally and only one group remains
-Park strongly influenced the first Canadian sociologists
Carl Dawson:
-regarded communities as the proper objects of sociological investigation
-investigated how community life is shaped by distinctive values and cultural practices and community life
shapes intergroup relations
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