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Chapter 2

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Baljit Nagra

Chapter 2: Mapping the Terrain The Def. of Ethnicity  Ethnic = nation  Not political unity, but to unity of persons of common blood or descent: a people  Ethnikos, ethnicus, referring to heathens, those “others” who didn’t share the same faith  In English, ethnic referred to someone who was neither Christian or jew, drawing of a boundary  Ethnic clearly referred to others, to those who were not “us” Sociological Definitions  Max Weber  subjective meaning of ethnicity, his work Ethnicity and Society o At the foundation of ethnic attachments lies real or assumed common descent. Ethnic ties are blood ties. o The fact of common descent is less important than belief in common descent. What matters is not whether a blood relationship actually exists, but whether it is believed to exist.” Ethinicity is a subjective matter, the crucial issue is how we see ourselves o The potentional bases of this belief in common descent are multiuple , varying from physical resemblance to shared cultural practices to a shared historical experience of intergroup interaction. Any of these, or some combination, might be the basis or justification of our assumption of common descent o An ethnic group exists wherever this distinctive connection –this belief in common descent –is part of the foundation of community, wherever it binds us to one another to some degree.  Core of definition shifted from webers concern with putative origins and shared history, to currently shared culture, to what group members now do  An ethnic group became a group of persons distinguished largely by a common culture, typically including language, religion, or other patterns of behaviours or belief.  Distinctive cultural practices have declined over time, but the identity –the sense of ethnic distinctiveness – has not (pg.18)  Immigrant groups in America: to many americans, the fact that groups members came original from “there, not here” or at least not form where “we” came from, is ultimately the source of their distinctiveness with homeland approximating weber’s concept of shared ancestry (pg.19) Ethnicity as a Distinctive Set of Claims  Richard A. Schermerhorn’s definition, which describes an ethnic group as a “collectivity within a larger society having real or putative common ancestry, memories of a shared historical past, and a cultural focus on one or more symbolic elements defined as the epitome of their peoplehood ”  Examples of symbolic elements that can be viewed an emblematic of peoplehood are: o Kinship patterns o Geographical concentration, o Religions affiliation o Language o Physical differences o Common history a group claims, ex. The historical experience of slavery plays a powerful role in many African Americans concept of themselves  Claim to kinship is broadly claimed, a claim to history of some sort, and a claim that certain symbols capture the core of the groups identity  Descent from a common homeland often serves as a broad assertion (declaration) of common ancestry  Although an ethnic identity is self-conscious, its self-consciousness often has its source in the labels used by outsiders; the identity that others assign to us can be a powerful force in shaping our own self-concepts  Others may assign an ethnic identity to us, but what they establish by doing so is an ethnic category  It is our claim to that identity that makes us an ethnic group  The ethnic category may be externally defined, but the ethnic identity is internally asserted  Ethnicity is a matter of contrast, an inherently relational construct  An ethnic group cannot exist in isolation  An ethnic group may be politically or numerically dominant within a single state, it may dominate one state and at the same time be a minority in others o Never theoretically an isolate The Definition of Race Race as Biology  Race can be thought of as a genetically distinct subpopulaton of a given species  Idea of biologically distinct human races emerged orginainallythn the extendth encounter between European and non-european peoples, that began in the late 15 and early 16 centuries  Europeans drew upon the Spanish concept of “purity of blood,” which sanctioned discrimination against converted Jews, and concluded that often superficial differences surely indicated more fundamental differences as well  This conclusion, which asserted their own inherent superiority helped them to justify their efforta to colonize, enslave, and sometimes exterminate many of the peoples they encountered  Non-whites are innately inferior to whites –that is to Europeans  Richard Lewontin: but the differences between major “racial” categories, no matter, how defined, turn out to be small. Human racial differentiation, is indeed, only skin deep The Social Construction of Race  Races , like ethnic groups, are not established by some set of natural forces, but are products of human perception and classification they are SOCIAL CONSTRUCTS  James King: “both what constitutes a race and how one recognizes a racial difference are culturally determined”  We decide that certain physical characteristics will be primarily markers of group boundaries  We invent categories if persons marked by that difference o Categories become important only when we decide they have particular meanings and acts on those meanings, we give them meaning, and in the process we create races  Define race as a human group defined by itself or others as distinct by virtue of perceived common physical characteristics that not to be inherent  a race is a group of human beings socially defined on the basis of physical characteristics  Neither the categories themselves nor the markers we choose are predetermined by biological factors  Racial categories are historical products and are often contested  Legal manifestation of what is known as hypodescent or the one-drop rule, which in the United States hold that any degree of African ancestry at all is sufficient to classify a person as Black  Michael Omi and Howard Winant: pathbreaking study of race in the United Sates: o Racial categories are not natural categories that human beings discover, on the contrary, they are created, inhabited, transformed and destroyed by human action and are, therefore, preeimently social products o They change over time as people struggle to establish them, overcome them, assign other people to them, escape them, interpret them, and so on o People determine what the categories will be , fill them up with human being, and attach consequences to membership in those categories Ethnicity and Race  Races may be but are not necessarily ethnic groups Differences Between Ethnicity and Race  The racial boundary that white society has historically drawn around itself has excluded different groups at different times  Jews and the Irish struggled to alter the perception, knowing all too well the costs of being non- white in the eyes of whites (pg 26)  Where racial designations have been used, ethnic distinctions within racial categories have tended to be overshadowed by the racial designations….society at large generally has either ignored or minimized these identities throughout much of its history, instead emphasizing more racial distinctions o Tendency in American life to recognize diversity among whites but to ignore it among others  Not all societies have experienced the same way o Race greater role in organization of society and culture in south Africa than the US o In Canada, ethnicity has been fully as important a fault line as race o In belgium, ethnicity has considerably overshadowed race as a dimension of social organization and politics  Differences between race and ethnicity: o Race typically has its origins in assignment, in the classifications that a dominant group imposes upon a less powerful collection of others, ethnicity can have similar origins, but it frequently begins in the assertions of group members themselves o Race first took on its distinctive contemporary means and uses as part of a monumental historical meeting of peoples  entire continents entered European consciousness for the first time, with populations that differed dramatically both physically and culturally from the peoples of Europe  these differences prompted classifications that were unprecedented in their comprehensiveness, a grand division of the world between Europeans and racially –physically –distinct others o This meeting of peoples and the ideas that came out of it were aspects of power relations…the designation of race is and of it itself, an assertion of the power to define one culture against the “other” and in doing so to create a rigid and presumably permanent social hierarchy  Europe’s quest for wealth, political power, and souls  They found justification for their activities in part in the idea of race, in the belief that human groups are inherently different and that those differences constitute natural physical and moral hierarchies that replicated in social organization, with Caucasians in dominant social positions and various “others” ranging downward from there  The domination of one group by another has turned repeatedly to race for its dubious legitimacy, thus race, and power historically and today have been tightly intertwined  Paul Spickard’s comment: “race is about power, and it is written on the body” o Racial designation typically implies inferiority (subordination)  Physical, biological, or moral worth in inferiority  the history of race is a history of moral judgements , a division of the world into more or less worth categories of persons  simple fact is that in much of world’s recent history, whites have been more likely than others to have power to make racial assignments, to organize social life in racial terms, and to define and value the categories as they have seen fit o the unworthiness attached to race is inherent  whites represented the norm, the others were just the Other  otherness thanks to the power that Europeans exercised was racially marked and defined, which is characteristic of racial classification systems (pg. 30)  ethnic category (assigned an identity as Italian) to an ethnic group (asserting an identity as Italian American) o ethnic group only emerged when that identity becomes part of the group’s own self- concept  assignment however isn’t necessary to ethnicity, which often has its origins in assertion, in the claims groups make about themselves instead of the claims others make about them o ex. Inuit people asserting their own identity (pg. 31)  power is almost invariable an aspect of race, it may or may not be aspect of any ethnicity (pg. 31)  Ethnocentrism: a belief in the normality and superiority of ones own people and their ways of doing things – is a common aspect of ethnic identity but ethnocentrism is generally focused inward and is less virulent than the assumption of inherent, biologically based inferiority and superiority typically attached to race and racism Commonalities of Ethnicity and Race  Both among scholars and in the society at large –tends to link them and often to confuse them  Both ethnicity and race are products of interaction between diverse populations, (the conceptual, the material, and political questions)  Commonly held to be “natural categories,” based on common descent or origin, on one hand,and on systematic physical differences, on the other o Both are elastic o Both are social constructs  Both often overlap  A group can move from one categthy to another overthime o To the English of the 18 and much of the 19 centuries, the Irish, although the same colour as the English, were a distinctly inferior race (pg. 33. End of page)  Example. American blacks held by others as distinct race. At same time, a self-conscious population that defines itself partly in terms of common descent (African as homeland), a distinctive history (slavery in particular), and broad set of cultural sysmbols (from language to expressive culture) that are held to capture much of the essence of their peoplehood. o When they lay claim to an identity of their own making and meaning and when they act on the basis of that identity, they are acting as an ethnic group  Racialization: is the process by which groups of persons come to be classified as races o Process by which certain bodily features or assumed biological characteristics are used systematically to mark certain persons for differential status or treatment  Ethnicization: making of an ethnic group o Process by which a group of persons comes to see itself as a distinct group linked by bonds of kinship or their equivalents, by a shared history, and by cultural symbols that represent in Schermerhorn’s terms, the “epitome” of their peoplehood Nationalism and Belonging  Nationalism: is a genre of claims, understandings, and grounds for recognizing, promoting, and legitimizing peoplehood, identity, and sovereignty o At core of nationalism there is three themes: autonomy, unity, and identity o Autonomy: nationalism is a political sentiment and movement; identity claims link nationalism and ethnicity together o Much of the task of nation builders is to forge links across cultural and identity boundaries  Conclusion:  Ethnic Group: o Identity is based on putative common descent. Claims of shared history and symbols of peoplehood o Identity may originate in either assignment by others or assertion by selves o Identity may or may not reflect power relations o Identity may or may not imply inherent differences in worth o Identity usually constructed by both selves and others  Race: o Based on perceived physical differences o Identity originates in assignment by others o Identity reflects power relations o Implies inherent differences in worth o Identity is constructed by others (at point of self-construction, group becomes ethnic group as well as race) Chapter 3: Fixed or Fluid? Alternate Views Primordialism:  Ethnic and racial identities are fixed, fundamental and rooted in the unchangeable circumstances of birth  8 elements directly contribute to person’s basic group identity” o Physical body o Person’s name o History and origins of the group one is born into o One’s nationality or other group affiliation o The language one first learns to speak o The religion one is born into o The culture one is born into o The geography and topography of the place of birth  Assimilation came to grief because such ties are far more deeply embedded in the human psyche and in human relationships than we realized  Viewing groups attachments and characteristics commonly associated with ethnicity and race as basic, enduring and somehow natural o It is common in many societies; to attribute certain behaviours or attitudes to ethinicty or to race, as if such behaviours or attitudes were acquired somehow at birthor were inevitable produced by membership in the group  ex. “see that temper? that’s the Irish coming out in him.” The Weaknesses of Primordialism  Difficult to cope with change and variation; primordial “givens ” are not supposed to change or to vary much within the group; “man is seen as a leopard who cannot change his ethnic sports” o But many people experience identity shifts, ex. Pg.53  Too much change and variation in ethnicity and race The Power of Primordial Ties  The ethnic attachments often carry a potent emotional charge and can compel a high degree of commitment from group members is amply demonstrated in the history of ethnic and racial conflicts  Tenacity with which some ethnic groups cling to their identities despite the economic and political costs of doing so suggests that ethnic roots on occasion go very deep indeed  Focuses on intense, internal aspects of group solidarity, the subjective “feeling of belonging” that is often associated with racial or ethnic group membership  the twin revolutions of democracy and industrialism would produce rational, individualized societies in which small-scale, face-to-face communities such as ethnic groups would no longer serve any useful purpose (steady progress of rationality and science)  Gemeinshaft (forms of society or community, small scale, affective, and intensely solidary)  Gesellschaft (expedient, individualistic, more rational and voluntary)  Shils and collegues concluded that even in most rationally organized settings, such as military, a great deal of social life still revoveld around relationships that were not , strictly speaking rational. o It wasn’t remote individuals and abstract ideas that motivated human beings, but immediate experience and intensely personal relationships  these were more powerful sources of social solidarity and they were capable of meeting human needs for communion, connection, and meaning o Solidarity of this sort could be found wherever shared experience and interdependency tended to build intimate bonds among persons o Ex. Family Primordialism and Identity  Horowitz argues that what makes ethnicity meaningful is the birth connection or at least the fact that a group accepts someone’s as if that person had been born in to….”the language of ethnicity is the language of kinship” o A powerful sense of ethnic identity is difficult to maintain without strong family ties o This explains the greater prevalence and power of ethnic affiliations in much of Asia and Africa, where family ties tend to be more elaborate, than in the West….(end of pg 57 quote)  Those who share primordial ties, are linked to each other in great prat by virture of some unaccountable absolute import attributed to the very tie itself Chapter 5 Case Studies in Identity Construction (pg. 126-133) Case 3: From Thick Ethnicity to Thin: German Americans  More welcoming environment hardly seems promising ground for the construction of an enduring ethnic identity, but German were not entirely free and unconstructed  Promise of citizenship carried with it the expectation that Germans would shed those things, - language, custom, even identity –that marked them as distinctive and made them who they are  Cultural practices of everyday life are not easily shed, despite the willingness of them to do so  Their determination to create a distinct ethnic identity and resist the demands of the assimilating into the host society was a source of tension o This tension created a distinct and elaborate German American identity, only to be abandoned when societal conditions changed Two German Migrations  Came America for number of reasons: o Religious freedom o Economic opportunity o Sheer adventure of new and abundant frontiers  Wanting to take advantage of new opportunities in the New World, if the immigrants themselves were not entirely successful, then they at least would prepare the way for their children, whom they full expected to thrive in North America  Understood that they had to leave most of their Germanness behind, however they brought with them the ways of living, thinking and communicating to the communities that were distinct from the other Europeans and different from dominant Anglo culture  Most German immigrants were “chain immigrants”..followed in the footsteps of family and friends who had gone before them…they knew they were going and much of what awaited them once they arrived  not all positive welcomes….anti-German prejudice…but early German communities were less the products of discrimination or prejudice than of inertia and convenience: the inertia of already existing language and custom, and the convenience of settling with friends and compatriots  most populations moved on from German population…..migrants of the colonial period had little sense of themselves as a united people o Germany was a large territory with separate states linked to together…not politically unified until 1871 o Immigrants came from various states, thus there were different German dialects spoken nd o Divided further by religion, education and class  2 wave of immigration for the US. Different because: o Sheer size…5.5 million Germans immigrated within 100 year period beginning in 1815…largest foreign-language immigration of the period and one of the largest in all of American history o Extraordinary diversity: their numbers and diversity were such that they could find what they needed in rapidly growing German neighbourhoods and communities, and they depended on the non-German society they were entering  Formed organizations of various kinds…building own institutions to meet their own needs and overcoming the various differences that divided them  Population size and diversity went hand in hand, turning major cities in “Little Germanies” o Many of these later immigrants wanted to retain their Germanness  Nationalist movement fueled by German romanticism, culminated in the failed revolution of 1848  Immigrants were either supporters of nationalist movement or had been influenced about it …in the aftermath of the failed revolution, they headed for America, intent on nurturing and sustaining German identity and culture  These immigrants were far less interested in cultural mainstream than earlier immigrants  They thought Germans who had come before them had little coherent identity or meaningful culture and they had earned little more than contempt from the host American society  New immigrants wanted to build a world of their own in America, a world in which the highest praise for anything was that it was “gerade wie in Deutschland”, means as good as in Germany  Some went as far as to propose German ethnic separatism, hoping to establish isolated settlements where German culture could be reproduced and preserved Cultural Preservation  The separatist impulse had only limited impact, but the preservationist impulse flourished.  Economic interest undermined the preservation  Those who were most committed to joining the economic mainstream of America n life were determined not to leave their culture entirely behind..believed qualities of culture should be Twelcomed and supported  Many felt they had a “special right…to support an ethnic existence in American because of the special gifts that they would ultimately bring into the melting pot”  Instead of being absorbed and overwhelmed by American mainstream, they would have to gradually unite with it as major contributors.  They would have to become and remain German Americans  Liberal intellectuals known as “Forty-Eighters,” the so called Refugees of Revolution, who had come to US after 1848 hoping to promote in America the dream of a unified German civilization that they had failed to realize in Germany itself o Reinvigorated German cultural life, founding a series of voluntary associations, historical societies, singing groups, and other organizations designed to foster German culture and identity  Turnevereins, social clubs devoted to physical culture (members called “Turners”) o Germans set out to improve strength and character of German people following the defeat in hands of the French (Napoleon conquering German territories)  Huge network of German language publications contributed to the preservation and cultivation effort o Well known journals were influential in helping German immigrants develop and retain a sense of themselves as German Americans  Many German immigrant children retained fluency in German, often greater fluency than in English o Result of not only family influences but also of German language elementary schools (many church based but public school were important)  The fact was that many Germans continued to put economy opportunity ahead of cultural preservation, making the cultural sacrifices necessary to take full advantage of the economic opportunities available to them o As years went by and their participation in institutions of the larger society increases, German Americans became less German and more American  By 20 century, much of US had adopted practices that has once been alien (public consumption of alcohol to Sunday leisure activities and publicly sponsored sport and recreation)  In some ways Benjamin Franklin had been right: the immigrants and their descendants had “Germanized” a number of aspects of life Chapter 4: A Constructionist Approach  Ethnic groups and identities form in an interaction between assignment, what others say we are and assertion, who or what we claim to be  A reciprocal fluxion, nothing absolute about the process or the end product  Ethnic and racial identities and the groups that carry them change over time as the forces that impinge on them change as the claims made by group members and by other change as well  Approach focuses on the ways ethnic and racial identities are build, rebuilt, and sometimes dismantled over time o Places interactions between circumstances and groups at the heart of these processes The Construction of Ethnic and Racial Identities  Stephen Maturin’s remark...”there is nothing absolute about this identity of mine” o Racial and ethnic identities are changeable, contingent, and diverse  A comprehensive or “thick” ethnic or racial tie is one that organizes a great deal of social life and both individual and collective action  A less comprehensive or “thin” ethnic or racial tie is one that organizes relatively little of social life and action  Martin: “a reciprocal fluxion”… identity is continually changing, but change occurs at the intersection of the claims he makes about himself and the claims others make about him  2 variables: the comprehensiveness of an identity and the degree to which it is asserted or assigned –offer useful ways to distinguish among identities and to begin to approach the process of identity construction The Comprehensiveness of Ethnic and Racial Identities  Ethnic and racial identities vary significantly in the degree to which they organize social life and collective action  Racial identity was extraordinarily thick: it dominated layer after layer of social organization with a comprehensive and power unmatched by any other dimension of individual or collective identity  Since 1994, however, the new, multiracial South African government has made a conscious effort to “thin” the role of race, to reduce the part it plays in organizing South African society  Thin identity for Italian Americans o Before however when arrival in the US, this identity was much thicker, playing a much comprehensive role in their lives o Over time, identities become more or less prominent as organizers of social life and action..diagram on page 78 o Time 2…for most of them, it has become the stuff of holidays and stories and old photographs…from being to feeling Italian o Some portion of that population may experience their ethnic identity was very thick, while others experience it as rather thin, producing very different manifestations of a supposedly singular ethnicity  Eventually, an American Indian or Native American identity become something more than a European perception  Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda…opposite from Italian Americans th  At Time 1, middle of 19 century, Hutu and Tutsi identities had relatively little influence on the social lives and self-concepts of Hutus and Tutsis, kinship and residential bonds were much more signific
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