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Chapter 4

Chapter 4: Fleras Summary

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University of Guelph
Sociology and Anthropology
SOAN 2290
Cecil Foster

Chapter 4: Fleras Chapter 4: The Ethnicity Experience: Politics, Identity and Power The Ethnicity Experience: Politics, Identity, and Power Debate: “How to make society safe for ethnicity, as well as safe from ethnicity (ethnic conflict).” Causes of ethnic conflict: social identity, territory, natural resources, self-determination, holy places, economic gains, cultural values, and personal and collective security. Goal: to deconstruct the “ethnic” in ethnic conflict (a trigger? a cause? a smokescreen?) Introduction: Global Implosion/Ethnicity Explosion Global Implosion: • - globalization, universalism, “McDonalization” - mass communication, mass travel, mass consumerism, mass education Ethnicity Explosion: • may be related to Globalization in that the pressure of global conformity and standardization could induce the desire for asserting ethnicity • politicalization of ethnicity Politicalization: • the process by which issues are taken out of the personal/private domain and drawn into the public domain in the competition for valued resources. • when laws/politics give certain advantages to ethnic groups, it gives more reason for internal conflict using ethnicity for instrumental gain on resources and advantages they would normally not have access to as an ethnic minority. “Ethnification”: the fragmentation of society into smaller ethnic communities. Ethnic Experiences: • “regressive”: creates conflict, leads away from global unity • “progressive”: provides community of like-minded individuals with commitment and support Defining Ethnicity Two ethnic patterns in many societies: Dominant Ethnic Group • Culture, language, values, and social patterns are privileged as normal and desirable • Possess the power and resources to establish institutional arrangements and ideological systems consistent with their interests. Proliferation of Ethnically Diverse Groups • Increasingly restive due to their marginal status • Options are limited, and limiting Constant pressure to conform to prevailing values, norms, and institutions • Ethnicity (broadly speaking): a principle of shared awareness of a people’s ancestral linkages and recognized commonalities as a basis for community, identity, and activity. Ethnicity includes: • Embodying a consciousness of being different because of tradition and transmission • An awareness of differences as socially constructed yet grounded in historical and structural realities • A recognition that, with ethnicity, people see themselves as different and are seen by others as being different • An acknowledgement of ethnicity as an explanatory variable in securing recognition (identities), rewards (entitlement), or relationships (engagements) Ethnic Group: actual communities of people who are socially and culturally distinct, who see themselves and are seen by others as distinct from other communities, and who are separated from others because of ancestries and boundaries. Ethnic Minority: a group of culturally distinct people who occupy (or are seen to occupy) a marginal status in society, even though they may outnumber those of the dominant sector. Why Ethnicity? People have turned to ethnicity as means of protecting their immediate interests, especially when central • authorities are unable to (or unwilling to) regulate control • Why do people hold their ethnicity so strong? Explanations Primordial Explanation • Ethnicity is an extension of powerful and immutable instincts • Being with your “own kind” Explains the intensity of emotion and passion when ethnicity is involved • • Biological theories (transmission of “pure” genes) Constructivist Explanation • Creation of ethnicity through meaningful interaction ethnicity is not a natural feature of society, but a constructed response to material exclusion, a search for social meaning, a quest for identity, and a struggle for creating culturally safe spaces • Identity Thesis – ethnicity persists because it provides a coping mechanism for addressing the globalizing demands of contemporary urban society Instrumental Explanation • Views ethnicity as a resource for pursuit of diverse goals • Elite (upper class) competition for scarce resources by manipulating ethnic symbols to secure mass support Resource Mobilization Theory – large-scale social movements possess the human resources and critical • mass to compete effectively at a national level by influencing central policy structures Expressing Ethnicity: 3 Levels Ethnicity as Community • Complex systems of social relations • Emotional/material support • Establish a power base for advancing political consciousness and action Ethnicity as Identity • Personal attachments involving a level of loyalty to a distinctive group (or tradition) based on commonalities with similar others • Dual identity is common (ie: Italian-Canadian) • 5 expression of ethnic identity: • Lived (born into primary group, remains identity for life) • Situational (context dependant, identity not constant) • Hybridic (postmodern, in and out of identities) • Transnational (split-loyalties globally) • Insurgent (highly politicalized, aggressive, uses any means to obtain what they want) Ethnicity as an Activity: Nationalist Movements • Process by which ideas and ideals are put into practice • To achieve the political goals of identity, voice, or land “ethnically defined goals” • Nationalism – constitutes the political expression of a nation whose people claim a common ancestry and shared destiny to govern themselves in a place they call a homeland • Nationalists movements are usually driven by the politics of exclusion Ethnic Nationalism: • those who share an ancestrally based identity can be mobilized into an action group (social movement) for defence of homeland, language and culture, and autonomy Civic Nationalism: • a contested term usually employed to demonstrate state iniatives in building a cohesive society (*No Nationalism is purely Ethnic or Civic.*) Depoliticalizing Ethnicity: Difference and Canada-Building: • Ethnicity constitutes a socially constructed vehicle to advance collective interests and exploit economic and political opportunities • Canada’s multiculturalism state could either be positive and bring ethnicities could ruin Canada’s society-building dreams • Canada’s official Multiculturalism is concerned with neutering (depoliticizing) ethnicity as a framework for living together with what’s left of our differences Chapter 5: Ethnic Inequality, Racialized Stratification Debate: Employment Equity: Solution or Problem? Canada proclaimed as inclusive
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