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Race, Ethnicity

An Introduction

Ethnicity and Nationalism (Thomas Hylland Eriksen
Chap. V Ethnic groups, Economy and Society (Max
Weber 1922)
Elementary strategies of ethnic boundary making
(Andreas Wimmer 2008)
The manipulation of ethnicity: from ethnic cooperation
to violence and war in Yugoslavia (Anthony Obershall
Ethnicity and Practice (G. Carter Bentley 1987)

Race : A useless concept in Biology, Genetics

Social sciences:
Race is a fiction that has been made real
Concepts of race can nevertheless be important
to the extent that they inform peoples actions; at
this level, race exists a cultural construct. Eriksen

Racism builds on the assumption that personality is somehow linked with hereditary characteristics which
differ systematically between races.Eriksen

Classification of human differences

Classification of bounded groups
Wacquant: From its inception, the collective fiction labeled race, namely that humanity is composed of
bounded grouping between whom social differences are the product of physical differences (visible or not) and
thus liable to be explained by (overt or covert) reference to biology rather than history, this fiction has always
mixed sciences with common sense and traded complicity between them. (For an analytic of racial

Mechanisms of inclusion
Mechanisms of exclusion

processes by which race is used to classify
individuals or groups
Group closure: maintain boundaries
Europeans/ non Europeans/ Roma
How does racialization impact our daily lives?
personal relations, friendships, networks, sex,
Employment, labor market

Social meaning and history
Perceived or constructed physical differences
Social significance varies by historical context and
power relations. USA/South Africa/Brazil/France
Folk concepts

Biology and genetics

Certain physical differences
Common descent, Blood, inherited
physical variations


Definitions and relations

Relatively new field of research for a growing
Anthropology 1960. Social sciences (SociologyPolitical Science) 1970

of scholarly publications since 80-90

Growing visibility of Ethnic and National
identities in societies and political life.
(Migrants/Indigenous population/Decolonization)

Explosion of internal conflicts described as

Ethnic (35/37 Conflicts in the World in 91)

Ethnic studies: a battle within two big

A) Primordialist-Essentialist-Perenialist:
Ethnic Communities, culture and identities:
Membership acquired by birth, given characteristic
of the social world.
Provide stability across different social contexts.
Represent one of the most stable principles of social
organization in Human history and some has
survived for millennia.

Ethnic Studies/Two Camps

B) Constructivist-InstrumentalistCircumstantialist:
Ethnic Communities, culture and identities:
Products of and contingents to social forces and history.
(Modernists/Emergence of the Nation State)
Individuals choose and use them as they see fit.
Individuals may identify themselves with different ethnic
categories depending on the changing logics of the

And the winner is

Constructivist camp !!
Consensus among scholars for a :

Constructed, contested and contingent character of

This is not an ontological definition of empirical reality: therefore one may
find cases with sharp ethnic boundaries, high degree of social closure among ethnic
lines and where ethnicity is a master principle of social organization.


The difficulty of a definition :

Ethnicity lumps together a great number of
very different social phenomena and relations
Social meaning/Cultural practices/Language
Shared history /Ancestry (real or
imagined)/Common descent

The difficulty of a definition :

Ethnicity is essentially an aspect of

relationship not a property of a group.
Ethnicity is an aspect of social relationship
between agents who considers themselves as
culturally distinctive from members of other
groups with whom they have a minimum of
regular interaction.

Ethnic relations:

Urban Ethnic minorities

Indigenous Peoples
Proto-nations (Ethno-nationalist movements)
Ethnic Groups in plural societies


Lumad Mindanao

Bangsamoro Islamic Liberation Front


Population in Mindanao

France/Ethnic Minorities

Analytical concepts and Native concepts:
Who are the Lue ?
Emic category of ascription
Etic category of ascription
Distinctions between our own concepts and
models, native concepts and model, and
social process


Social construction of Ethnicity and closure


Social Construction, (Weber)

The Belief in Common Ethnicity (Subjective
Ethnic Membership is a presumed identity
(vs Kinship)
Cultural traits : markers of identification and
differentiation. (Language, Customs, Way of
life, fashion, )

Social Construction, (Weber)

Ethnic group/Status group
Ethnic honor is a specific honor of the masses
(White Trash)
Belief in common ethnicty delimits social circles
Ethnic membership facilitates group formation

Social Construction (Weber)

From political community
to Common
ethnicity (fictional kinship)
turning into personal relationship
Ethnic fiction as a lower form of

Closure and Boundaries (Weber)

Racial membership and relations: American Example
Emancipation and Equal civil rights/Jim Crow laws
One drop blood (1924)

Interracial sexual relations

Monopolization of social power and honor (White
Interracial sexual relations (The conventional
connubium) is far less impeded by anthropological
differences than by status differences, that means
differences due to socialization and upbringing.

Ethnic Boundary Making

Elementary Strategies of ethnic boundary making


Ethnic Boundary Making

Ethnicity is not primarily conceived as a matter of relations between predefined, fixed groups -such as in the race relations or ethnic competition
approach (e.g. Banton 1983)- but rather as a process of constituting and
re-configuring groups by defining the boundaries between them."

Agent based. What kind of strategy agent use

in order to deal with ethnic group boundaries?
Agent can be individual or corporate (social
movement, institutions)

Ethnic Boundary Making

Three levels of action:
Redraw a boundary:

Expansion or Contraction
or domain of people in ones ethnic category

Modify existing boundary

Challenge hierarchical ordering (inversion)

Change own position within a boundary system (ladder)

Emphasize other, nonethnic forms of belonging


Ethnic Boundary Making

5 Strategies:
1)Redraw a boundary:


2)Modify existing boundary

Positional move

3) Emphasize other, nonethnic forms of belonging


Expand Boundaries
Reduces the number of categories

Ex. Nation-building (Incorporation A+B = A/Amalgamation

A+B=C/Superposition A/B/C)
Boundary expansion: France (incorporation )
Redefines existing ethnic group as the nation- everyone should
fuse generalize from one. A+b=A

Ex. Ethnogenesis (making minorities often entails second process of

shifting boundaries)
Comanche: USA (Amalgamation of different sub groups in one ethnic
group. A+b=C)


Splitting categories or Shifting to lower level

Dis-identification with ascribed categories
smaller, more specific categories

Ex: Immigrants

Resist broad Ethnic categories for specificity

Asians but Chinese or Taiwanese or Japanese
Southeast Asians but regional affiliation such as
In the 50s, African American elite differentiate
between Lighter and Darker black.

Reinterpret or change normative principles of stratified
ethnic systems

Redefining the meaning of ethnic boundaries

Re-identification with new positive image, identity, culture
Reversing stigmata of ethnic identity ascription
Ex: Black is beautiful vs bloodthirsty white wolves

Normative inversion
Black Power
First Nations

Moral and political equality

Civil Rights Movement, USA

Marche pour lgalit, France


Positional moves
Status change
Boundary crossing

Boundary crossing
Nation building: incorporation, fewer groups


Blurred boundaries
Reduce salience of ethnicity
Local community or
Global community of belonging (Religion)
Particular or universal (Humanity/Human


of boundary-making strategies

Yugoslavia: An example of Ethnic


The manipulation of ethnicity: from ethnic cooperation to violence and

war in Yugoslavia Obershall

Yugoslavia conflict: 1991-1999, implosion of the Federal republic of

Yugoslavia. Wars between the republics and minorities enclave inside.
Populations : Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, Kosovars
Religions: Orthodox, Catholics, Muslims
War crimes, Mass crimes, ethnic cleansings

The manipulation of ethnicity: from ethnic

cooperation to violence and war in Yugoslavia

Before the wars, Yugoslavia was characterised by high level of cooperation and
interpersonal ethnic relation (Mixing, intermarriage, multiethnic
neighbourhoods, towns and areas)

How nationalist and ethnic haters elites were able to

receive tacit or open support from the population ?

Yugoslavs had two cognitive frames on ethnic relations:

A cognitive frame is a mental structure which situates and connects events, people and groups into a
meaningful narrative in which the social world that one inhabits makes sense and can be communicated
and shared with others (Snow et al. 1986)"


A cooperative frame in time of peace and security (50-90s)

A dormant frame anchored in family history and collective memories of
previous wars and ethnic atrocities

The manipulation of ethnicity: from ethnic

cooperation to violence and war in Yugoslavia
Obershall shows the concatenation of Ethnic Manipulation/Fearinsecurity/Cognitive frame of crisis/Organized Ethnic
Violence/Ethnic cleansing

In the waning days of Communism, nationalists activated the crisis frame on

ethnicity by playing on fears of ethnic annihilation and oppression in the mass
media, in popular culture, in social movements, and in election campaigns. lite
crisis discourse resonated at the grass roots, made for ethnic polarization, and got
nationalists elected. Once in office, nationalists suppressed and purged both
moderates in their own ethnic group and other ethnics. They organized militias
who perpetrated acts of extreme violence against innocent civilians

Without the tacit, overt or confused support of the majority, the nationalist
leaders could not have escalated ethnic rivalry and conict into massive collective

Extended Literature
Race/Racialisation/Racialized State:
Wacquant, Loic J.D. For an analytic of racial domination . Political Power and Social
Theory 11 (1997): 221-234. Print.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. Rethinking racism: Toward a structural interpretation .
American sociological review (1997): 465480. Print.
Loveman, Mara. Is Race Essential? American Sociological Review 64.6 (1999): 891.
CrossRef. Web. 6 avr. 2014.

Fearon, James D., et David D. Laitin. Violence and the Social Construction of Ethnic
Identity . International Organization 54.4 (2000): 845-877. CrossRef. Web. 21 mars
Brubaker Rogers, et David D. Laitin. Ethnic and Nationalist violence. Annual Review of
Sociology, Vol. 24 (1998), pp. 423-452
Bowen, John Richard. The myth of global ethnic conflict . Journal of democracy 7.4
(1996): 314. Print.

Do you think that ethnic minorities exist in
Sweden ? Do you think that ethnic boundary
making exists in Sweden?
Could you frame the nation building history of
Sweden in Wimmer taxonomy?
Through Obershall article and other sources
that you can find, could you specify examples
of ethnic manipulation and propaganda and
examples of ethnic cooperation?