Ethnic Boundary Making: Institutions, Power, Networks
It is hard to avoid seeing ethnicity, race, or nationality wherever one looks. Differences in education, income, and health are often patterned along ethnic or racial lines. But how do we disentangle discrimmation and preferences for certain groups from the everyday working of labor markets and educational institutions or privileging family members or those with similar educational backgrounds? Drawing on a boundary-making perspective first championed by anthropologist Fredrick Barth, Andreas Wimmer introduces a new comparative theory of ethnicity. It explains precisely how and why ethnicity matters in certain societies and contexts but not in others, and why it is sometimes associated with inequality and exclusion, with political and public debate, with closely-held identity, while in other cases ethnicity, race and nationhood do not structure the allocation of resources, invite little political passion, and represent secondary aspects of individual identity. Wimmer argues that when ethnic and racial differences matter they matter because of institutional incentives, differences in power, and pre-existing social networks. Wimmer first provides a broad overview of different ethnic configurations around the world, outlines the new theory, and proposes a set of research designs based on non-ethnic units of observation. Next, he draws on these methods to demonstrate how the utility of the boundary-making approach through a qualitative study of immigrant ethnicity in Switzerland, a network analysis of racial and ethnic boundaries of U.S. college students on Facebook, and a statistical analysis of cultural values in the European Union.
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academic major actors African African Americans American analysis approach Asian assimilation associated boundary-making strategies Brubaker chapter classification Coldplay comparative consensus constructivist countries cultural assimilation cultural difference cultural distance data set degree develop discrimination distinction dominant effects elite emerge emphasize empirical Ethnic and Racial ethnic background ethnic boundaries ethnic categories ethnic communities ethnic groups ethnic minorities ethnogenesis ethnoracial European everyday example Facebook Fredrik Barth friendship group formation Herderian heterodoxy Hispanics identify identity immigrant minorities immigrants individuals institutional interaction Italians labor market mainstream majority mechanisms membership Migration Muslim nation-building nation-state neighborhood nonethnic Northern Ireland one’s percent political processes pursue race racial categories racial homogeneity racial homophily Racial Studies reciprocity relationships relevant salience same-race shared shift social boundaries social closure social networks society sociology specific strategies of boundary structure Swiss Switzerland theory tion triadic closure Tutsi typology United Univ value orientations variables Wimmer