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Studying Society: Race, Ethnicity and Nationalism


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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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Studying Society: Race, Ethnicity and Nationalism

  1. 1. Race, Ethnicity, Nationality
  2. 2. Outline Race Ethnicity Nationality Theoretical Perspectives
  3. 3. “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
  4. 4. “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 genetic But ‘race’ is clearly important and has real consequences as a concept Race is socially constructed
  5. 5. Video about discrimination
  6. 6. 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? • Skin tone? Hair • Colour • Baldness Ability/ Disability? “Beauty” – notice ‘sneer’ marks!
  7. 7. Race and Slavery Racial differences were used to justify slavery Massive global movements (10mn) from Africa through Europe to US and Carribean And yet racial distinctions were incredibly difficult to maintain (ie Quatroons) Race is socially constructed Slavery still exists
  8. 8. 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)?
  9. 9. Thin and Thick ethnicity Thick ethnicity (comprehensive): ethnic or racial tie that organizes a great deal of social life and both individual and collective Action Thin ethnicity (less comprehensive): ethnic or racial tie that organizes relatively little of social life and action.
  10. 10. 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 Al Qaida FIFA Hong Kong United Nations Scotland London Texas European Union Wales
  11. 11. Sociology and the nation state It is all about power The 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 but also undermining the interest of the global working class
  12. 12. 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…
  13. 13. Break
  14. 14. Who am I? depends who’s asking… To an American I’m a European? To the French I’m British To a Scot I’m English To a Geordie I’m a cockney To a Londoner I’m an Essex boy To an Essex boy I’m from Southend To somebody from Southend I’m from Westcliff
  15. 15. Group activity How 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?
  16. 16. Group work On your poster paper draw a pair of axes, going from ascribed – achieved, and thin and thick ethnic identity Take your group answers from before and place yourselves in a quadrant thin ascribed achieved thick Now do the same for the following
  17. 17. Australian aboriginal people
  18. 18. Eminem
  19. 19. Irish-Americans at St Patrick’s day
  20. 20. ‘King’ Arthur Pendragon
  21. 21. Kevin Pieterson – England cricketer
  23. 23. Functionalism Focus on values and norms Immigrant – Host model Assimilation - Multiculturalism Chicago School
  24. 24. 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
  25. 25. 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
  26. 26. Summary “Race“ is a fiction, but has serious implications Ethnicity encompasses culture Nationality is a modern concept Different theoretical viewpoints focus on different aspects Next week – reading week