Race Prelim, Social Construction

Terms in this set (22)

Race is said to be involuntary, ethnicity voluntary; race to be a matter of external categorization, ethnicity to internal self-identification; race to be based on differences of phenotype, ethnicity on differences of culture; race to be rigid, ethnicity flexible; race to involve super and subordinate, ethnicity coordinate groups; race to arise from processes of exclusion, ethnicity from processes of inclusion; race to have grown out of European colonial encounter with the non-European world, ethnicity out of the history of nation-state formation (Brubaker 2009). But, as outlined by Dikotter (1997) and Wacquant (1997), some "racial" categories have histories largely independent of European colonial expansion. Wacquant (1997)- although the history of race correlates closely with that of Western imperialism, it is neither fully coterminous with, nor reducible to, the latter. Colonial expansion accelerated and amplified the impulse to categorize on putative biological grounds but it neither initiated nor ever wholly contained it. Additionally, "racism" is not targeted solely at people of color. The first groups to be racialized by Europe were not colonized populations but the Others from the Interior: Jews, peasants, workers, rival and recalcitrant nationalities within nascent states, and this well before the bloom of imperialism. There were long-standing racial traditions in non-Western societies like China


Some scholars continue to argue for the categorical distinctiveness of race and for studying race, racism (Mason 1994), "racialized social systems" (Bonilla-Silva 1997), or "racial formations" (Omi & Winant 1994, Winant 2000) on their own as phenomena with their own structures and dynamics, sharply distinct from those of ethnicity and nationalism (this point in made in Brubaker 2009).

Some of these scholars who make this distinction, notably Cornell and Hartmann 1998, do not treat the distinction as hard and fast, but emphasize the extensive overlapping and blurring between the two.
These scholars treat race, ethnicity, and nationalism as belonging to a single integrated domain. This does not mean, that one should treat race, ethnicity, and nationalism as an undifferentiated domain. Distinctions can be drawn on a number of dimensions, but these do not map neatly onto conventional distinctions between race, ethnicity, and nation. Rather than seek to demarcate precisely their respective spheres, it may be more productie to focus on identifying and explaining patterns of variation on these and other dimensions, without worrying too much about where exactly race stops and ethnicity begins (Brubaker 2009).

1. Based on folk concept, conflates analytic and folk concepts of race, reifies race, conflates categories of practice with categories of analysis (Wacquant 1997, Brubaker and Cooper 2000, Brubaker 2002, Loveman 1999)
2. Race cannot be both object and tool of analysis (Wacquant 1997)
3. Analytic distinctions between race and ethnicity are based on commonsense understanding prevalent at particular times in the United States (Wacquant 1997;Loveman 1999; Bourdieu and Wacquant 1999)
4. Undermines attempts to improve operation and consequences of race in different times and places (Loveman 1999)
5. Treating race as fundamentally different from ethnicity overlooks the fact that one and the same group of individuals might be treated as a race at one point in history and as another type of ethnic category at another (Wimmer 2008)
6. Phonotypical differences are often evoked as one among other markers of ethnic distinction, just as race (Wimmer 2008)
7. Distinguishing between race as fixed, imposed, and exclusionary, on the one hand, and ethnicity as fluid, self-ascribed, and voluntary, on the other hand, doesn't do justice to ethnic groups that have experienced force segregation, exclusion, and domination usually associated with race
8. There is no clear-cut line between ethnosomatic and other types of ethnicity that would justify establishing entirely separate objects of analysis to be addressed with different analytic tools

Brubaker, Loveman and Stamatov (2004)- Instead of asking "what is race?", "what is an ethnic group", "what is a nation?", a cognitive approach encourages us to ask how, when, and why people interpret social experience in racial, ethnic, or national terms.
Brubaker, Loveman & Stamatov (2004) -Race, ethnicity, and nationality are constructed through cognition. They exist only in and through our perceptions, interpretations, representations, classifications, categorizations, and identifications. They are not things in the word, but perspectives on the world—not ontological but epistemological realities. The cognitive processes and mechanisms underlying these ways of seeing are identical throughout the larger domain. The processes of classification and categorization, formal and informal, that divide "us" from "them"; the forms of social closure that depend on categorizing and excluding certain potential competitors as "outsiders"; the categories and frames in terms of which social comparison and social explanation are organized; the schemas, scripts, and cultural models that allow one to perceive, experience, or interpret situations and sequences of action in standardized racial, ethnic, or national terms; the cognitive biases in the retrieval and processing of information that lead us to evaluate evidence in selective ways that tend to confirm prior expectations and strengthen stereotypes—all of these and many more cognitive and socio-cognitive mechanisms and processes are involved in essentially similar forms in phenomena conventionally coded as belonging to distinct domains of race, ethnicity, and nationalism.


Brubaker, Loveman, Stamatov (2004) - A cognitive perspective focuses our analytic lens on how people see the world, parse their experience, and interpret events. This raises a different and broader set of questions about racial, ethnic, and national categorization. The relevant questions are not only about how people get classified, but about how gestures, utterances, situations, events, states of affairs, actions, and sequences of actions get classified (and thereby interpreted and experienced). The questions, in short, are about seeing the world and interpreting social experience, not simply about classifying social actors, in ethnic terms. The schema concept can help elucidate and concretize this notion of ethnic "ways of seeing."