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Chapter 2

SOC 210 Chapter 2.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
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 orginainally in the extended encounter between European and non-european peoples, that began in the late 15 and early 16 th 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
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