October 3, 2022

Ethnicity and Structure


  • Recap
  • Ethnic boundaries
  • An example

Why structures?

Why structures:

Structural approach to ethnicity solves problem \((1)\): helps to understand where these come from…

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

Why structures:

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

Ethnic Boundaries

ethnic boundaries (Wimmer) are social structures

1. ethnic categories for people and category rules

  • “labels” and “definitions” (schemas)

2. real-world practices that use those categories

  • what we “do” with those labels
    • in thought and speech (schemas)
    • in action/in shaping our material world (resources)

Ethnic Boundary Practices

Boundary Practices

Wimmer (2008) identifies several dimensions of ethnic boundaries

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