September 28, 2022

Ethnicity and Structure

Outline

  • Assignment 1
  • Why look at structures?
  • Exercise
  • Ethnic boundaries

Assignment:

Assignment 1:

  • Due October 7 at 11:59 pm
  • 3-5 pages, double spaced, Times New Roman
  • Required readings; use of key terms
  • Don’t put your name on it (blind grading)
  • Citations: be consistent, cite required readings
  • References: not required to do additional research, but it is permitted

Assignment 1:

  • Thesis
  • Evidence to support Thesis
  • Evidence to refute counter-arguments
  • Use of sources

Why structures?

How does ethnicity “work”?

Ethnicity is not essential, it is an active process of ‘identification’

  • rational/strategic
  • psychological

Two problems:

\(1)\) Instrumental/Psychological perspectives assume:

  • repertoire of descent attributes
  • nominal ethnic identities
  • operative ethnic identities

Where do these come from?

Two problems:

\(2)\) Identification approach implies individual choice of ethnicity: how easy is ethnic change?

  • What stops you from just successfully identifying as a different ethnicity?

Ethnicity as Structure

Ethnicity as Structure

Viewing ethnicity as structure may solve these problems, but we need a definition that is not…

  • essentialist (structures do not come from ‘nature’)
  • immutable (structures do not change)
  • deterministic (structures override human agency)

What are ‘structures’?

Sewell (1992):

social structures

  • shape and direct human activity by enabling and constraining certain forms of action
    • but also created/changed by human activity
  • dual:
    • necessarily made up of two (possibly) mutually-reinforcing components: schemas and resources
    • schemas shape resources
    • resources shape schemas

What are ‘structures’?

schemas: categories and concepts, as well as recognized “rules”, “recipes”, or behavioral scripts for how to use those categories/concepts.

  • “virtual”, in that they aren’t limited to one point in space and time
  • they are “ways of thinking”, and they are powerful insofar as they are shared with/intelligible to others
  • may be used by anyone, transposed into new contexts, new uses
  • examples:
    • gender categories vs memes
    • jati in India vs Canada; honorifics/familiarity in language

What are ‘structures’?

resources: are both human capabilities of thought/action, as well as natural and human-produced materials that can be used to maintain or enhance power

  • “actual” in the sense that they can be used to enhance power in a particular place and time
  • only enhance power through using capacities/materials
  • examples:
    • nonhuman: gold, livestock, property
    • human: physical skills, social media metadata, certification

What are ‘structures’?

schemas shape resources:

  • property is resource, depends on schemas
  • ethnic stereotypes, behavior scripts have economic, political, bodily consequences…

resources shape schemas:

  • income/educational/housing inequality can reinforce stereotypes
  • control over census, jobs, school curricula, etc. can reinforce use of ethnic categories, stereotypes

What are ‘structures’?

Solves problem \((1)\): helps to understand where these come from…

  • repertoire of descent attributes
  • nominal ethnic identities
  • operative ethnic identities

What are ‘structures’?

Solves problem \((2)\): how can ethnicity be “socially constructed”, yet hard to change?

What are ‘structures’?

social structures are intersubjective

  • \(S_2O\): two subjects (people), one object (material world)
  • mutual intelligibility and shared understanding of material world
  • people understand the categories, rules for membership, and how they are used, even if they DO NOT CONSENT/AGREE WITH these practices.

Ethnicity may be difficult to change because categories/rules for membership… - are still enforced by many other people… (schema) - are embedded in material world (segregation, media, etc.)

What are ‘structures’?

This definition of structure is not:

  • essentialist (multiple, conflicting structures… nation vs. ethnicity)
  • immutable (because resources \(\to\) schemas and schemas \(\to\) resources, structures can change)
  • deterministic (schemas applied in new ways, e.g. human rights; resources have unpredictable consequences, e.g. slave revolts)

Ethnic Boundaries

Identification is only one part of how ethnicity. Helpful to think of ethnic boundaries as a structure.

To explain why some descent-based categories are used, some ethnic categories operative, need to know

  • how are ethnic categories/schemas propagated/reinforced culturally?
  • how are they invested with power/resources?

Ethnic Boundaries

ethnic boundaries (Wimmer)

1. ethnic categories for people and category rules

  • “labels” and “definitions” (Chandra)

2. real-world practices that use those categories

  • what we “do” with those labels
    • in thought and speech;
    • in action/in shaping our material world

Exercise

A fictional ethnic boundary

As you watch the following, think about the following:

  • what are the “ethnic identity categories”?
  • in what ways are those ethnic categories used in thought/speech/action? (be as specific as possible)

In small groups: share the ways ethnic categories are used

  • for each way ethnic categories are used in the story, think of a real world example that is similar

Exercise:

  • what are the “ethnic identity categories”?
  • in what ways are those ethnic categories used in thought/speech/action? (be as specific as possible)

In small groups: share the ways ethnic categories are used

  • for each way ethnic categories are used in the story, think of a real world example that is similar

Ethnic Boundary Practices

Ethnic Boundaries: Institutions

institutional use: the use of ethnic/racial categories by formal institutions to label people (not necessarily in a discriminatory manner)

  • examples: census forms, school forms, voting rules, government social service records

institutional separation: the presence of distinct formal institutions for people labelled as members of different ethnic/racial categories (not necessarily unequal)

  • examples: churches/houses of worship, stores, schools, private associations, voting constituencies, governments, political parties, newspapers

Ethnic Boundaries: Institutional Use