Sociology 201, Ethnic Relations
Primordialism, the idea that ethnic groups have existed continuously throughout history and that
modern groups are still linked to their roots.
Questions about this:
-some groups share the same language, culture, religion but see each other as different
-some groups are very different yet see each other as the same
-Examples: Rwanda and Burundi
We live in an interesting time because there are ethnic conflicts going on everywhere around us
-Nationalism, suggests that everyone needs their own national state, ex: Quebec states they
aren't free until they have their own nation. Links culture to the state. Culture is linked to power.
-Community of Nations
-New Kinds of Identity: because of racism against minorities etc, people feel the need to create
new communities, identities
September 6 :
What is ethnicity?
Ethnic: root is ethnikos (greek)
-groupings of families that shared the same religious values and beliefs
Meaning “Heathen” or “Pagan” which basically means other, different, so it’s implication is negative
-Both a positive and negative side to Ethnicity
-Positive Subscription: you belong to a group
-Negative Ascription: how other people look at you, perhaps how the dominant see you and
are able to stereotype you, see you as different
-Ethnicity only exists where difference exists.
One of the earliest attempts at a definition of Ethnicity:
-Comes to us by Max Weber(pg.2 in Ethnicity Reader)
**“Those human groups that entertain a subjective belief in their common descent because of
similarities of physical type or of customs or of both or because of memories of colonisation or
Implication of this Definition:
-Race: perception of human difference based on appearance; assumption that there are clearly
delineated racial groupings; biased culturally based cateogory; Weber intends to challenge racially based theories with this definition.
-Political Action: ethnic groups emerge for the purpose of achieving some common goal in the
political and economic system; representing relationship to power; marginalization from or control of
the reigns in power.
-History: sense of a shared past; migration, colonisation, story about this past(mythological);
-Boundaries: set the limits of social circles; markers such as custom, language, religious practice, even
cuisine, dress, dialects, or accents can be used to create boundaries. Who is in and who is out is
determined by these boundaries.
-Endogamy: affilia tion (including marriage) within group. Primarily important for females than males
because females are giving birth
Eriksen tells us(pg2)
“for ethnicity to come about, the groups must have a minimum of contact with each other and they
must entertain ideas of each other as being culturally different from themselves. If these conditions
are not met, there is no ethnicity, for ethnicity is essentially AN ASPECT OF RELATIONSHIP, NOT A
PROPERTY OF A GROUP
Kind of fictive kinship, we assume that members of an ethnic group are related to each other in some
what. We often assume it is biological but this is often not the case. Ex: euro-canadians, Chinese-
Minorities Ethnic, Majorities not?
-Often we see these kinds of ideas associated
-natural, national, modern, rational, normal
-ethnic, rebellious, primitive, backward, exotic
Social Class: who has the power to define themselves; who enjoys access to the powerful institutions
of the society? How do you gain access? Who is the gate keeper of important social institutions?
Basic social theories (3)
Macro-structuralism Theory: Emilie Durkheim
-structure functionalism in anthropology
-aka structuralism, functionalism
-people are seen as being determined by social forces
-Emilie Durkheim focused on social solidarity. What holds a society together? -why do people feel a sense of community?
-his focus can be referred to as ahistorical(not historical)
-the same influences are in operation in all places at all times,
-history is seen as the same thing, played over and over. History is not regarded as an important part
of this theory
-therefore all societies must address the same things, concerns, issues
-Durkheim suggests there are 2 types of solidarity:
1) Mechanical Solidarity: mechanical bonds, small scale, relatively simple societies characterized
by homogeneity, face to face. Only works if society is small and if the people share the same religion,
2) Organic Solidarity: where Durkheim compares society to a living organism. Complex societies
characterized by differentiation, heterogeneity. Lots of differentiation between the people; different
religions, beliefs, practices; therefore we need laws, contracts, markets to hold this type of society
Emilie Durkheim’s work:
-he investigates the difference between heroic vs. anomic suicide
-heroic society; relates to mechanical solidarity
-anomic suicide; relates to organic solidarity. Don’t feel like they belong, no place in society
Ethnicity is one way of creating groups that are needed for societies to function as a whole.
Different ethnic groups have different roles in society, along with genders, religions, etc. Change is
insubstantial; overall structure does not change, although groups within it may move to be replaced
by other groups.
Materialism: Karl Marx
-also called Marxism, neo-evolutionism)
-base determines superstructure
-the base is: the relationships of production; the way society is organized. Focused on the economy!
-the superstructure: the customary practices, values, beliefs, types of social groups that exist
within the society.
-everything is based on the economy
-history has a directional, created by economics! Therefore we have movements of history, through
different modes of production:
1) Early communalism; hunter and gatherers
3) Feudalism 4) Capitalism (current)
-all of history is leading to a final outcome of communism, socialism
-this is a historical/diachronic theory
-dialectical materialism; drives history.
-the theory that history is driven by ideas
-great ideas lead to people adopting to new ways of lives(inventions)
Thesis: agreed upon nature of economy
Anti thesis: inherent contradictions which accumulate to conflict!
Synthesis: new thesis deriving from the conflict-change; process then begins again
-history is driven by this process
-Ethnicity is false consciousness, associated with the capitalism types of societies.
-ethnicity is designed to prevent us seeing where our oppression is coming from.
-designed for the dominant
-Marx wrote “The Communist Manifesto”, “Das Kapital”
Micro-Interactionism: Max Weber
-aka symbolic interactionism, historical particularism, symbolic theory
-Max Weber wrote: “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
-strongly anti-deterministic approach; does not believe that we are puppets on a string controlled by
bigger structures. He believes we are the ones creating them.
-Social structures are constituted by human interactions. People are not merely suspended in forces
greater than themselves; people make their world through their interpretations and daily interactions.
-humans creature social movement by thoughts, ideas, and by doing this we create a new social
institution which can grow and become a way of life that gains more believers and changes the world
we live in.
-social institutions and systems are the result of the decisions individuals make and the accumulation
-gives humans power.
-to Weber, discordance is important; when society presents itself in a particular way as containing
certain beliefs and values. Experience of individuals compared to the ideal is discordant, leading to
the development of explanations (ex; new interpretations, new ways)
-Change is central to the system
-Social movements created by groups of individuals thinking and interpreting leads to social change.
-Historical, but not deterministic. History has no direction
-Ethnic groups emerge as social movements; communities based upon subjective interpretations with
overt aims and goals.
-the least ethnocentric of the three theories
-ethnicity is one way people change the world th
September 11 , 2013
Weber’s Chapter (pg 15-26)
-they see ethnicity as a problem, and not worthy of the study from a true scholar
-Weber tries to explain how ethnicity is similar to different phenomena’s that they’re interested in
-Connubium: “the faculty by which a man may make a woman his lawful life” –Roman Legal Concept
-example: patricians and plebes did not have connubium
-Endogamy: what is beauty? Who decides? How is attraction understood? Who is ‘repulsive’?
-we are always presented with an image about how we should look, through mainstream media etc
-Asian women often get surgery to remove the eye fold to look “western”
-catering to people who have money, who will spend $$ to look like people in ads/the media
-“any cultural trait, no matter how superficial, can serve as a starting point for the familiar tendency
to monopolistic closure” (pg17)
-small differences are cultivated and intensified
-such group see each other as exclusive and sharply demarcated
-related to statuses available and conditions the interactions based upon the assumption of closure.
-if people are radically different, many avenues of life/work are not readily available for you
-Ethnic membership is presumed, not concrete. Presumed on visible characteristics
-kinship is concrete as we can track it, do DNA analysis, and can be verified.
-“Conduct of everyday life”
-apart from linguistic, religious and economic differences, it is “what affects the individuals’ sense of
honour and dignity”
-conspicuous differences notion of propriety and correct way of life
-pressure to conform to the ways of the dominant, especially in matters that are often trvial
-disutility of the notion of an ethnic group
-ethnicity is:- not irreducible
-not a full explanation of a feature(they don’t eat rice because they’re asian, they eat it
because it’s a cheap staple food and they like it)
-is not necessarily functional(sometimes it leads to murder), it can be dysfunctional as
September 13 , 2013
Anthony Smith article, The Ethnic Origins of Nations(1986)
-Ethnic groups are:
-Anthony smith argues we can trace ethnicity back to the bronze age(5000BP)
-Ethnicity has been around for a long time
-Definition of ethnicity in Smiths criteria:
1) group must have a name for itself
2) belief in common ancestry
3) must share historical memories, must have a story of who they are, how they came to be
4) must have shared cultural features; food, features, values, family structures
5) territory shared, which is controversial. Could the group identity precede the territory?
6) must imagine themselves as a group. *imagine*: we create symbols about ourselves and others.
Could be a word, a ritual, rice=Chinese? Without this symbolicness, a group is not ethnic according to
-Ethnicity persists and spreads as groups see that others have these criteria and feel the need to have
Ethnic Polity vs Incorporated Ethnie:
-Ethnic polity: dominant group of the economy, political sphere and the processes of imagination
-Incorporated ethnie: the less dominant group
-the main issue of the “modes of social penetration” but otherwise, both dominant and the non-
dominant are similarly constituted.
-incorporation, assimilation: moved towards the dominant
-Whether you are the dominant or not, you’re constituted through symbols and creation of symbolic
ideas, through these processes of imagination that reflect real power.
September 16 , 2013
-www.irsi.aboriginal.ubc.ca/events : Due Wed Sept25th
-Truth and reconciliation day: go to the UBC Indian residential school initiative, write up a report for
the prof. Single spaced, describe the event, naming names; who was there? What I learned, what
surprised me, what shocked you, and anything else you find relevant.
-Go to any events listed on website!
-first residential school was established in 1620 in New France.
-150,000 people attended residential schools -80,000 are still alive today.
-1840; state policy.
-1763, we got the Royal Proclamation which recognized aboriginal rights to their land.
-aboriginal people were seen as backwards and savage
-policy was to wean the people of their cultures and to civilize them
-1880, 11 Industrial schools were founded
-1884 attendance mandatory of residential schools; ages 7-15
-residential schools started falling apart in 1969 after White paer integration of white and aboriginal
-1996: last residential school running
-children were not allowed to go home, and parents could not visit children @ schools.
-children were pushed into a military/prison style institution
-these children were taught that their parents and ancestry was backwards, savage and that white
society was superior. The only answer was to become like a white person.
-children were forbidden to speak their own languages and were shaven, to beatings, to sticking
needles through their tongues. Children were locked in dark closets for hours, given rotten food, and
forced labour was also part of the punishment. Sexual assault was also a punishment.
-children were sent home if they got too sick and often died shortly after getting home. No proper
-people who went through these schools have shown to not live as long; alcoholic, suicide, which has
taken a huge toll on aboriginal communities
-people taught they had an unacceptable identity
-this created a lost generation because they were deprived of history, language, stories, ancestry
-many times children died in the schools and nobody notified the parents
-children were not given a chance to learn how to live in a traditional society.
-when they come back to the reserve, these people do not have the skills to live therefore these
people will become dependent, and poverty will take over within these reserves. Ripples through
generations and social structure itself.
-when these children were sent to residential schools, they were not split up depending on band/tribe.
-these schools become shared historical memories for all aboriginal people. Today, aboriginal people
share collectively that they were forced into these schools.
-these residential schools are central in understanding the processes occurring with aboriginal people
over the past years.
-what symbols are being used to create an aboriginal identity. How do dominant groups symbolize
-aboriginal people have been invisible, and their problems ignored, and overlooked. Who gets to
decide what a problem is? And what the solution is?
-Truth and Reconciliation commission is an opportunity to explain their story themselves, to be heard,
to have attention paid to them. This has never happened, and is a huge deal. A powerful voice is being given to these people. No longer to be spoken about/by others. They get their own voice.
-think of how aboriginal peoples are portrayed in our society.
Are aboriginals an ethnic group?
-the French were cooperative with the aboriginal. They often intermarried, known as the Métis.