SOC263H5 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Social Inequality, Racial Democracy, Race Matters
ProfessorAnna C Korteweg
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Lecture 5: Race, Ethnicity and Social inequality
What is Race?
Sociological Definitions of Race:
•Race as biology?
Social scientists have disputed the scientific “evidence” that suggests that Homo sapiens can be
classified into different racial categories on the basis of some physical characteristic (by
phenotypes such as skin color) or genetic difference.
•Race as social construction rather than a biological essence, race is socially
constructed and the social construction of race matters.
Social construction: The process through which meaning is attributed to social rather than
biological or genetic factors. It is closely connected with the idea of reification.
If we reject the physical characteristics and biological differences cannot accurately
classify races of people, then what can? Nationality, language, ethnicity?
Quandaries of Race:
•The problem of reification: Should we abandon race?
•Racialization: to categorize or differentiate on the basis of race.
What is Ethnicity?
•Culture and identity
For Weber, ethnicity is social constructed because beliefs about group differences serve to
exclude individuals from certain associations while including them in others.
Ethnicity is constructed around several dimensions, including difference in language, customs,
religion, ancestry and physical characteristics. (Labeling people as members of an ethnic group)
Weber believes that labeling is not used as identifying, but rather excludes people from the
rights and privileges that other people enjoy.
We have boundaries, see how every ethnic group’s works and pass ethnic boundaries
Explaining Racial and Ethnic Inequality I
•Theories of Racial Formation:
Race is defined as a concept which signifies and symbolizes social conflicts and interests by
referring to different types of human bodies.
•Definition of racial formation
It is a sociohistorical process by which racial categories are created, inhabited, transformed, and
•Core argument centers on the concepts of “hegemony” and “racial projects”
Hegemony: the dominance of one group over another.
Omi and Winant note that the use of extreme force in a racial dictatorship through
African slavery and the mass explosion and murder of the First Nations people has
allowed consent for racial democracy
Racial projects are processes through which human bodies and social structures are
represented and organized. They connect what race means in a particular discursive
practice and the ways in which both social structures and everyday experiences are
racially organized based on meaning.
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