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Dr. Daria Bahtina: Perception and construction of social boundaries


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International conference "My home, our home: what unites us in a multicultural community" 15th and 16th November in Tallinn, Estonia. Conference website:

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Dr. Daria Bahtina: Perception and construction of social boundaries

  1. 1. Self and Other: Perception and construction of social boundaries Daria Bahtina University of California, Los Angeles
  2. 2. • Self and Other – from concepts to particulars • Methodology and data – Imitation Game • Social boundaries that construct Us versus Them: majority – minority integration levels Outline imagined – acknowledged
  3. 3. Self and Other The looking–glass self Cooley 1902 Othering – a tool to have and to impose identity Kapuściński 2008 Differences used to cement stereotypes Eco 2012 Social boundaries for group membership Durkheim 1915
  4. 4. Imitation Game → Group formation and maintenance Interactional expertise Collins & Evans 2002 Judge – ask Qs to assess belonging Non–pretender – display Pretender – imitate
  5. 5. Judge: How do you celebrate New Year’s Eve? What do you eat and drink, watch on TV and get as a present? Russian speaker from Estonia 1: The whole family gets together. 2: I eat ’olivie’, drink sparkling wine or A lot of food and noise. Kids are vodka. Watch the Russian president’s happy. There are humorous TV speech at 11pm. Presents are plentiful. shows. People drink sparlking wine and shoot fireworks. Judge’s verdict: Typical of a Russian speaker.Judge’s verdict: Description is too general. A Russian would never say ’noise’ – it’s their natural state of being!
  6. 6. Tunnetko Naapurisi — Know Your Neighbour
  7. 7. Ethnic Estonians + Russian–speaking Estonians Multiplayer setup: 69 participants, 24 full games, 3 players per role 30+ hours of conversation + interviews + questionnaires Data
  8. 8. Majority versus Minority Estonian judges guess 82%, Russian speakers – 50% (p < .01) Ability to maintain own boundaries OR to cross other boundaries? Estonian judges' success drops from 82% to 51% (p < .01) with well–integrated Russian–speakers. H: minorities score high, majorities score low on the game
  9. 9. Integrated minority features Socialization in both groups –> epistemic resources, shared opinions Knowing the other – understanding oneself Resist the idea of nation/ethnos Strong association with the state Self–identification closer to ethnic Estonians A challenge to fit into one rigid category
  10. 10. Integration level Low integration guess 92% correct, high integration 59% (p < .01) Language is negatively correlated with success The less we know, the easier it is to patrol borders If we loosen the boundaries, there is more social cohesion
  11. 11. Judging strategies and borders Difference between frequency and efficiency Self–reported judgement type: content – form – content/form Form–based judgements: • low integration 82% correct, high integration 17% (p < .01) • frequency peaks when reported L1 is lower (p < .01)
  12. 12. Form–oriented judgements Language use is full of stereotypes
  13. 13. Form–oriented judgements CLEAN AND SIMPLE, JUST LIKE WE USE OUR LANGUAGE Pretenders gave themselves away by using incorrect language Sentences were too clean and simple, as if from a children’s book Their answers are more emotional and even aggressive They are smart and on point, our group would not reply like that
  14. 14. Form–oriented judgements Aspects of language emphasized by participants: Language use is full of stereotypes • spelling: typos ignored, but not grammar (word formation) • syntax (infinitives, verb agreement, sentence structure) • word choice (informal style, confusing cognates) • stylistics and manner of speaking
  15. 15. Topics of questions — by ethnic Estonians // Russian speakers: Culture–specific knowledge 12 // 11 Values and norms 12 // 10 Lifestyle and daily activities 6 // 15 Traditions 6 // 8 Mass media, pop culture 5 // 5 Political opinions 8 // 2 Childhood memories and experiences 6 // 2 Other 2 // 0 Content–oriented judgements
  16. 16. Take–home message Social groups are not stable entities but a process Brubaker 2002 Research toward a more comprehensive account of social identity: • distentangle stable features from adaptable • identities beyond ethnic background • social programs + participation practice
  17. 17. Thank you!