Race difference and the inclusive society
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‘ Race ’ , Difference, and the Inclusive Society. Teresa Staniewicz Office: R2.38 Email: [email protected] Office Hours in Term 1 Tues days 4pm – 4.50pm Thursdays 12pm-1.30pm Please email me before so that we can arrange a suitable (free) timeslot! Thank you!.

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‘ Race ’ , Difference, and the Inclusive Society

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Race difference and the inclusive society

‘Race’, Difference, and the Inclusive Society

Teresa Staniewicz

Office: R2.38

Email: [email protected]

Office Hours in Term 1

Tuesdays 4pm – 4.50pm

Thursdays 12pm-1.30pm

Please email me before so that we can arrange a suitable (free) timeslot!

Thank you!

Centre for Rights, Equality and Diversity


Ethnicity culture and difference

Ethnicity, Culture and Difference

This Lecture will cover:

  • Brief Intro: ‘Race’ and (Ethnicity) are highly contested notions – why is this so?

  • What does ETHNICITY mean?

  • Ethnicity – a form of cultural identity?

  • Do ‘ethnic groups’ exist, how are they formed?

  • Can ethnicity be measured?

  • Essentialist and anti-essentialist thinking – are defined by our assumed commonalities, ‘essences’, or, is ethnic identity a discursive construct – changing with time, place & usage?

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Ethnicity culture and difference1

Ethnicity, Culture and Difference

‘Race’ and Ethnicity - contested terrains (i)

‘Race’ – presented in inverted commas, to alert you to the fact that this core concept is a social construction, and not a scientific or biological (and therefore presumed legitimate, and subsequently perpetuated) classification of world populations.

BEWARE THOUGH!!! Aftercenturies of migration, intermarriage, we still fixate on phenotypical differences between people as significant, in our understandings of them.

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Race difference and the inclusive society

Cont./ contested terrains (i)

  • If this is indeed the case, ethnicity can be conceived of as being nearly as universal a characteristic of humanity as gender and age - unlike phenomena like nationhood and nationalism, which have been so conceptualised in the academic community as to concern the modern world only (Anderson 1991, Gellner 1983).

    In fact, as we shall see, the evidence suggests that this is also a highly contested terrain

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Ethnicity culture and difference2

Ethnicity, Culture and Difference

‘Race’ and Ethnicity - contested terrains (ii)

Ethnicity Polemic – white Anglo-Saxons frequently use the concept of ethnicity to refer to ‘other’ (usually non-white) people. It has become a taken for granted universal, and, the continued use of such signifiers of difference, and different cultures, (in terms of a dualism of black and white), serves to underpin and further constitute power relationships between groups. [Signals relations of marginality, leads to exclusion].

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Meanings of ethnicity i

Meanings of Ethnicity (i)

Some key concepts to know in order to articulate situational / contextual meaning(s) of ethnicity:

  • ‘Race’; Diaspora (diasporic identities)

  • National identity (transnational identities)

  • Hybridity or Syncretization

  • Community (imagined communities)

  • Cultural identity (multiple, shifting, fragmented)

  • Multiculturalism;Representation(s)

  • Primordialism; Stereotype (racial, cultural)

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Meanings of ethnicity ii

Meanings of Ethnicity (ii)

ETHNICITY: is a relational concept concerned with categories of self-identification, and social ascription. What we see ‘ourselves’ as, depends on what we see ‘others’ as not being (i.e. not like ‘us’).

A sharing of norms, values, beliefs, cultural symbols & practices, and outlooks of a given community, that have emerged historically, and, tend to set people apart. The main distinguishing features are: language, history, or ancestry, religion, and styles of dress. Ethnic differences are wholly learned or chosen, not biologically inherited.

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Meanings of ethnicity iii egs

Meanings of Ethnicity (iii), egs

However, please note that:

“We should not assume that what is termed ethnicity in different sites and settings is the same phenomenon[….]The significance of this ordering of identity and culture takes on, however, has to be placed within specific historical and social contexts and these can be quite different in structure and meaning.

[my emphasis, (Fenton, p.58)]

  • Symbolic Ethnicity

  • Situational Ethnicity

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How are ethnic groups formed

How are ethnic groups formed?

Ethnic groups can be formed as a result of a range of different circumstances. We can categorise them in to 5 main groups (p.32):

  • Urban minorities

  • Proto-nations

  • Ethnic groups in plural societies

  • Indigenous minorities

  • Post-slavery minorities

    What factors determine collective (self)identification, and, mobilisation?

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Can ethnic groups be measured

Can ethnic groups be measured?

Is it possible to record the plethora of self-identifications? How do we go about it? [Head of household – it’s changing nature since 1950’s, means inaccurate results occur].

The National Census (pp.36-39)

  • The politicised nature of the ‘ethnicity’ question. A question on ethnic group has not always been included on the UK census. The 1st time was in 1991 .

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Can ethnic groups be measured1

Can ethnic groups be measured?

  • Compromises, 1991, and changes in 2001

    The politicised nature of ethnicity (and ‘race’)

    The question did not appear until 1991. It was well known that the UK’s Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher was personally hostile to the principle of asking such a question. She had made it clear that she regarded talk of social divisions based on differences of ‘ethnicity’ and indeed ‘class’ as socialist dogma.

    2001: expanded to recognize Irish category - & bet. ‘British’, & Others – white b/ground

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Essentialism cultural identity e g

Essentialism – cultural identitye.g

This is regarded as the name for a collective

‘one true self’. Thought to be formed out of a common history, ancestry, set of symbolic / collective resources. A ‘British identity’, expressed as ‘cultural identifiers, might be:

  • Symbol of the Union jack

  • Memories of the 2nd World War

  • Collective rituals such as FA Cup Final, etc

    These rely on the assumption that such markers form part of the historically ‘shared experiences’ for white & non-white Britons.

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Anti essentialism cultural identity

Anti-Essentialism – cultural identity

This position sees that as well as points of similarity, cultural identity is organised around points of DIFFERENCE.

So, by juxtaposing ‘British’ and ‘black’, the essentialist argument is immediately problematic – one might assume that a British identity was in fact an Anglo-Saxon one. The presence of a substantial black (and Asian, Jewish, Chinese, and more recently Polish) population in Britain, makes such an assumption rather difficult to sustain. Instead, it serves to redefine what it means to be British.

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Anti essentialism cont

Anti / Essentialism, cont.

Being British does not mean ‘being white’

Not being British does not mean ‘being black’

Being British can involve being black, Asian, Chinese, white, etc…., with the capability to trace one’s respective ancestries back to their respective countries of origin [whether articulated by location or religious beliefs].

Crucially, cultural identity, as indeed ethnicity, is not an essence but a continually shifting set of positions.

  • Is this approach problematic?

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Race difference and the inclusive society

Persistence of stereotypes – aids essentialist notions of ‘type’ [i.e. suitable for French sensibilities]The ‘Polish plumber campaign’: launched in a humorous response to French fears of the labour market being ‘flooded with Eastern European competition [notions of possible xenophobia].


Race difference and the inclusive society

Another example of such:Poland’s tourism officials replied with the ‘sexy nurse’ campaign. The new poster was aimed to draw attention to the ‘pretty face’ of Poland, and to try to break the stereotype of Poland as a grey and ugly place.

Polish females have had to deal with a barrage of unwanted sexist attention – these persisting stereotypes have NOT HELPED!!

This notwithstanding, as a result of working conditions, uncompetitive pay, and with some areas experiencing persisting ↑ unemployment, 100’s of nurses dissatisfied with their working conditions have left Polish hospitals to seek work in other EU member states.


Ethnicity culture and difference3

Ethnicity, Culture and Difference

Beware the Black/White divide problematic:

Despite the complex ethnic and national compositions of both ‘native’ and ‘immigrated’ populations, a binary characteristic of inclusion and exclusion, the Black / White dichotomy, remains dominant in this country. Not too long ago, its inappropriateness has been increasingly brought into question, in particular following widespread and rampant racism against asylum seekers who do not easily fit with the pre-existing notions of Blackness (Parekh Report, 2000); and more recently, with post-Accession (i.e. white European) migrants.

This not-withstanding, most data collection and theorising on ethnicity still focus on post-colonial migrants and their descendants from the Caribbean, Asia and Africa.

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Concluding thoughts

Concluding Thoughts

Points to ponder:

  • Ethnicity is both grounded & constructed: acknowledging contextual aspects is critical for a better understanding of the differences between the variable manifestations of ethnicity.

  • Revisit (Eriksen’s) ethnic group formations: Fenton’s use of the 3 historical trajectories clearly defines the contextual nature of ethnic formations, and these are central to theorisations of contemporary ethnicity.

  • Operationalising concepts: ‘race’ & ethnicity: is it possible to measure / identify ethnic groups?

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