SOC101Y1 Lecture Notes - Fredrik Barth, Phenotype

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20 Nov 2012
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What are the sociological definitions of ethnicity and race?
What are the differences and commonalties between ethnicity and race
Describe the first time you can remember that you realized you are a particular race or ethnicity? And
how did that make you feel?
One journal entry can answer both of the current class' question but it'll only count as one
Often it's others who tells us who we are. Social labeling.
Fredrik Barth
One of the first sociologists to explore how ethnicity was socially constructed
Argued that ethnicity involved both self-ascription and the ascription of others
o John farley (2000) defines an ethnic group as a group of people who are generally …(see
Important elements to ethnicity
Perceived common ancestry
The perception of a shared history of some sort
Shared symbols of peoplehood (kinship patterns, geographical concentration, religious
affiliation, language, and physical differences)
Self consciousness ( ethnic groups see themselves as distinct but the source for this
self consciousness is often labels used by others)
o Race was originally thought of as genetically distinct subpopulation of a given species
o In society typically it is a matter of categorizing individuals based on phenotypical
differences (differencees of facial characteristics, skin colour, hair texture, etc)
o But these differences (differences in genetic makeup)
o Humans are genetically very identical (approx 99%)
o The idea of race originally emerged in the extended encounter between European explores
and non-European people that began in the late 15th and 16th century
Thought they had discovered a subspecies
o Scientific research has shown genetic differences among human groups that we view as
races are inconsistent and insignificant
o Society assumes racial categories and takes them seriously but they do so for social and not
biological reasons
o Race is a product of human perception and classification. In short it is a social construct
o The term race refers to groups of people who may have differences and similarities in
certain characteristics (often physical) deemed by society to be socially significant
o Usually we give these reasons for political reasons, power, etc
Discussion question
Why can we not let go of race even though there is so much evidence that it does not really
Once it's built up it’s just set into your system and how society is it's hard to let
go of it
Differences between R and E
o Race typically has its origins in assignment (ethnicity is self identification, race is someone
labeling you)
o Race is a product of colonization
o The emergence of race was directly connected to power relations (race helped justify
genocide, slavery, property)
o Racial designation typically implies inferiority
o The unworthiness attached to race is inherent (created division of us and them, we're
better, their lives are worth less, they don't know how to work this land, etc)
Can you describe the times where you have made to feel inferior or superior because of your
ethnicity or race. How do you think these experiences have impacted your life?