SOC210: Ethnicity in Social Organization – Lecture 3 (Sept. 25)
- Past academic journals are up – this year we have to cite the readings
Important Elements to Ethnicity
- Perceived common ancestry
- The perception of a shared history of some sort
- Shared symbols of peoplehood (kinship patterns, cultural practices, geographical
concentration, religious affiliation, language)
- Self consciousness (ethnic groups see themselves as distinct but the source may come from
Social Constructionist Approach to Ethnicity
- Social Ascription and Self Ascription
- Ethnic identities can be fluid and situational. They vary across space and change across time.
o i.e. German identity in North America. When they first came to N.A., they held onto a
distinct, German identity. This changed starting from WWI when a stigma became
associated with being German. And after WWII, less people identified as German
and it became unacceptable to hold a German American identity. Some Germans
changed their name.
o Staring from the 1970s, there was resurgence in German ethnicity because the
stigma weakened. In 1990s, Germans had the largest ancestry group.
- Ethnic groups are actively involved in the construction and reconstruction of their identities
but they do so in racialized circumstances.
- The set of ethnic identities to choose from is limited by social and political factors.
o i.e. “one drop rule” is was a formal practice made by a census. It had repercussions
in people’s daily lives
o i.e. an informal practice is when Black people enter society and are treated
differently due to their race, so they feel isolated and categorized.
Social Constructionist Approach to Ethnicity
- Role that a given racial or ethnic identity plays in organizing society can vary
- Thick category (an ethnic tie that organizes a great deal of social life at both an individual
and collective action)
- Thin category (an ethnic tie that organizes very little of social life and action)
o i.e. South Africa prior to the 1990s, race determined who you married, where you
lived, how you were treated by police, employment opportunities, and level of
political power you had
o i.e. Italian category is thin, it doesn’t determine who you are and what opportunities
you have. It used to be a thick category when Italian immigrants first arrived.
- Categories can change from thick to thin and vice versa
Academic Journal Question
1. Do you think your ethnic or racial identity is thick or thin? How so?
2. Describe a time when you felt grouped into an ethnic/racial category that you did not belong
into. Or describe a time where you wanted your ethnic identity to be recognized and it was
not. How did this make you feel?
3. Describe how your ethnic identity is fluid. For instance, in which social situation do you feel
more a part of a certain ethnic or racial group? In which social situations do you feel less a
part of a certain ethnic or racial group? Has your ethnic identity changed over time?
Empirical Case #2 - Asian American Pan ethnicity
- Historical Study by Yen Le Espiritu - Panethnicity refers to the shifting of group identification from smaller to larger ethnic
- The category of “Asian” which is applied to Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Filipino
members etc in North American society is a socially constructed. Therefore, Espiritu calls
this Asian American Pan ethnicity.
- In the beginning groups such as the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, etc. were distinct
- They engaged in ‘disidentification’ (the distancing of one group from another so as not to be
mistaken and suffer the blame for the presumed misdeeds of that group)
o They didn’t come together initially and wanted to be distinct
o i.e. in late 19 century there were many racial stereotypes associated with the
Chinese. When the Japanese came, they saw how the Chinese were treated and made
a conscious decision to try to stay distinct.
o Japanese thought they were superior to Chinese and were insulted when grouped
with the Chinese. The Japanese believed in the stereotypes created for the Chinese.
o The tables turned after WWII because the Japanese were the outsiders
o Chinese people had buttons and signs to prove they weren’t Japanese
o This disidentification was a self-defense mechanism
- How did a collective Pan Asian identity emerge then?
1. Second generation Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Filipino immigrants shared a common
identity associated with the United States.
2. The racial lumping of diverse Asian groups by government organizations and society in
large. The second generation did not have the same opposition to being lumped together as
previous generations. They didn’t carry the historical tension with them.
3. The political and social struggles of Asian Americans during the 1960s led them to realize
that forming a coalition could better advance their economic and political interests
4. Shared history: Asian American Scholars reinterpreted Asian history to see what was
common to all Asian Americans:
o A record of violence against Asians, who were denied rights of citizenship, forbidden
to own land, interned in relocation camps and forced to live in poverty-stricken area
5. Other factors: less residential and occupational segregation and protest against Vietnam
Why is this study important?
- Racialization: is the process by which groups come to be classified as races. It is the process