Studying Society: Lecture 4
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Studying Society: Lecture 4



These are the slides from my Studying Society course at Durham University’s Foundation Centre. This week is looking at concepts around race, ethnicity and nationality.

These are the slides from my Studying Society course at Durham University’s Foundation Centre. This week is looking at concepts around race, ethnicity and nationality.



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  • What are other ways of dividing humanity?
  • For more on this see Haralambos 152-8 (in 6thed).
  • Reference Black Jacobins
  • I think that each of these could be thought of as a nation state to some degree, some of the features I’m looking for are : Law, Tax, Army, Patriotism, Borders, Power over some territory, passport, head of state, currency, language, flag.
  • See “Imagined Communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism” Benedict AndersonImage from Flag is South Sudan, became independent in July 2011
  • Different identities might matter at different times (e.g. Olympics, World cup, where I am).

Studying Society: Lecture 4 Studying Society: Lecture 4 Presentation Transcript

  • Race, Ethnicity, Nationality
  • OutlineRaceEthnicityNationalityTheoretical Perspectives
  • “Humanity can be divided into groups in many ways: by culture, by language and by race – which usually means skin colour. Each division depends to some extent on prejudice and, because they do not overlap, can lead to confusion” Steve Jones, 1991
  • “Race”Race is scientifically problematic • genetic diversity between humans less than other animals (ie snails)People look different, but little evidence that they are significantly different • Cultural differences more important than geneticBut „race‟ is clearly important and has real consequences as a conceptRace is socially constructed
  • Which physical characteristics matter?Discuss the physical differences which people are classified based on your experiences and the societies in which you are familiar Morphology – size and shape of bodies • Muscularity? • Height? • Weight? Hair • Colour • Baldness Ability/ Disability? “Beauty” – notice „sneer‟ marks!
  • Race and SlaveryRacial differences were used to justify slaveryMassive global movements (10mn) from Africa through Europe to US and CarribeanAnd yet racial distinctions were incredibly difficult to maintain (ie Quatroons)Slavery still exists
  • If not race, ethnicity?• “Aspects of relationships between groups which consider themselves, and are regarded by others, as being culturally distinctive” (Eriksen)• Ethnicities don‟t exist in isolation• Very often there is a hierarchy of ethnic groups within a society • Status • Material Rewards• If cultural, what makes an ethnicity different from other cultural groups (e.g. football fans)?
  • Thin and Thick ethnicityThick ethnicity (comprehensive): ethnic orracial tie that organizes a great deal ofsocial life and both individual and collectiveActionThin ethnicity (less comprehensive): ethnicor racial tie that organizes relatively little ofsocial life and action.
  • What is a nation?Which of the following are nation states? Use your discussions to make a list of the key features of a nation state Catholic Church Hong Kong Al Qaida FIFA United Nations Texas WalesLondon European Union Scotland
  • Sociology and the nation stateIt is all about powerThe nation state has a monopoly of violence over its citizens within a certain border (Weber)The nation is a key element of capitalism (Marx) not only supporting the interests of the elite undermining the interest of the global working class
  • Nationality?The nation is an „imagined community‟ (Anderson) • Imagined (you can‟t know everyone) • Limited (inclusion/ exclusion) • Sovereign (independent)Nationalism is relatively recent (5-600 years) • Sometimes more recent…
  • Break
  • Who am I? depends who‟s asking…To an American I‟m a European?To the French I‟m BritishTo a Scot I‟m EnglishTo a Geordie I‟m a cockneyTo a Londoner I‟m an Essex boyTo an Essex boy I‟m from SouthendTo somebody from Southend I‟m from Westcliff
  • Group activityHow do you define yourselves?• Which labels do you use? – Which labels matter?• What do these labels mean? • Culture • Language • Location • Physical characteristics?• Are these labels ascribed or achieved?• Are they really important (thick) or not very important (thin) identities?
  • Group workOn your poster paper draw a pair of axes, going from ascribed – achieved, and thin and thick ethnic identityTake your group answers from before and place yourselves in a quadrant thin ascribed achieved thickNow do the same for the following
  • Australian aboriginal people
  • Eminem
  • Irish-Americans at St Patrick’s day
  • ‘King’ Arthur Pendragon
  • Kevin Pieterson – England cricketer
  • Where would you put yourself?
  • FunctionalismFocus on values and normsImmigrant – Host modelAssimilation - MulticulturalismChicago School
  • Marxism• Migration integral to international capitalist system• Increases inequalities between rich and poorer countries• Migrants usually young• Rich countries haven‟t paid for their health/ education• „reserve army of labour‟• Prejudice against immigrants helps capitalists• legitimates exploitation• scapegoats (e.g. unemployment)• Divides working class
  • Post-colonialism• Importance of nationalism in relationship between coloniser and colonised• People in post-colonial societies have ambiguous identities• nationality• ethnicity• religion• Colonialism still an active force in today‟s society• Postcolonialism tries to give voice to the Other
  • Summary“Race“ is a fiction, but has serious implicationsEthnicity encompasses cultureNationality is a modern conceptDifferent theoretical viewpoints focus on different aspectsNext week – gender and feminisms