September 17, 2021
identification: the active process of categorizing a person as a member of a group or category
A focus on identification changes how we define ethnicity…
From the identification perspective (“constructivist”)… “identities” are composed of…
later we’ll say “ethnicity” is more than just an “ethnic identity”
Chandra (2006) asks “What is Ethnic Identity and does it Matter?”
a constructivist definition (Chandra 2006): ethnic identity categories are those in which membership is determined by:
Chandra openly admits that this definition is “arbitrary”. Raises some questions:
Are there other descent-based identity categories that are impersonal, all siblings equally eligible for membership, but not included?
Can religion be ethnic identity? People convert/change their religion
Is race an ethnic identity or is it different?
Chandra examines several other attributes often associated with ethnicity:
but finds these either don’t apply to lots of groups we think of as ethnic; or follow from a definition of a group
In the case of race, (e.g. in the US), groups share actual ancestry but are nevertheless distinct
Not all groups invoke a shared common ancestor
While ethnicity is about attributes you acquire via descent or allegedly via descent, this does not necessarily mean that ancestry must be common
Doesn’t usually apply:
"Sharing a common group history cannot be a criterion for being members of the same group, for we would have to be able to identify the group in order to identify its history. Someone in the fourteenth century could share a common history with me in a historically extended race only if something accounts for their membership in the race in the fourteenth century and mine in the twentieth. That something cannot, on pain of circularity, be the history of the race? (Appiah 1992).
Chandra points to two features: on average…
\(1.\) ethnic identities are “stickier” (change is constrained) because the descent based attributes cannot be or are not easily changed.
\(2.\) ethnic identities tend to be defined using attributes that are more “visible” (appearance, language, etc.)
This still suggests that defining “ethnicity” may be an arbitrary distinction
Let’s come up with three groups: