Ethnic Boundaries In Sociological Literature

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Introduction Views of ethnicity and ethnic boundaries in the sociological literature can be broadly divided into two categories. On the one hand, scholars like Weber ([1922] 1968) focus on the essential characteristics of ethnicity and a set of subjective “beliefs,” collective understandings of a common ancestry and shared culture (385, 389). On the other hand, another category of ethnic boundaries derive from the work of social anthropologists such as Fredrik Barth (1969) who theorizes that ethnic divisions are about maintaining boundaries irrespective of cultural differences. The variability in the affirmation of ethnic identity may be dependent upon social settings or situations and relevant to an actor’s perception of that situation. In this sense, ethnic identity is “situational” that “is premised on the observation that particular contexts may determine which of a person’s identities or loyalties are appropriate at a point in time.” (Paden 1967, 268) Thus, a question arises about which ethnic group an individual identifies with and then how strongly he/she identifies with that group in different contexts. For those who treat ethnic identity as…show more content…
Hence, the direction here is the opposite: Subgroups cultivate their pan-ethnic identities as a form of ethnic expression to highlight subgroup diversity and cultural legitimacy. For example, ethnic Chinese groups may not want to be placed in the Asian category and thus they emphasize their pan-Chinese culture to distinguish themselves from other groups such as Japanese or Koreans. In this sense, it fits Wimmer’s idea of shifting ethnic boundaries through contraction because the boundaries get narrower and people dis-identify with the category to which outsiders assign them (Wimmer 2008a, 1036; 2008b,

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