Social Construction Of Ethnicity

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Social Construction of Ethnicity

Social Construction of Ethnicity


This paper highlights the relationship between three of the mst debated concepts in the American social context including the social construction of race and ethnicity, distributive justice, and reproductive success.


The study of racial and ethnic relations in sociology has been an important concern throughout the twentieth century and shows signs of continuing in significance in the twenty-first century. Not only have academic concerns among sociologists contributed to the focusing and refocusing of problems and controversies of race relations. Simultaneously, larger historical, social, cultural, economic, and political factors have interacted to redefine what is meant by race and ethnicity and the social factors explaining this phenomenon (Blank, 2008). As such, the concept of race relations has been to an important degree an interdisciplinary one, which has implications for knowledge (Banton, 2006).

Within the racialization process of the United States, Blacks are at the bottom of the racial hierarchy, Whites are at the top, and other groups are in the political process of managing their positions away from Blacks and closer to Whites. Max Weber, who equated ethnic group identification to a group's belief in a shared historical origin and common ancestry, developed the historical sociological definition of ethnicity.

In his definition, the emphasis is on belief. An ethnic relationship is believed to be equivalent to a blood relationship among the members of the ethnic group; that is, members of an ethnic group believe they share a common ancestry with members of the same ethnicity (Schaefer, 2009). This definition of ethnicity has been broadened to include the belief that a shared culture can determine an ethnic identity. Looking at ethnic identity as a process of a shared culture makes ethnic identity a process of the present-day connections between members of an ethnic group. Specifically, it is the culture that they share today that helps to determine their shared ethnic group identity (Blank, 2008).

However, even though cultural interpretations of ethnicity have grown in prominence, the belief in a common ancestral original history clearly distinguishes it from other sociocultural groups found in society, such as motorcycle riders, Goths, or even social class. Ethnicity may be less salient, but the meanings of ethnic identity are still important for members of the ethnic groups (Schaefer, 2009).

More complex than the definition of ethnicity is the definition of race. Race has historically been defined by the perceived visibly distinct physical characteristics shared, or believed to be shared, by members of a race, whereas ethnicity has been defined as a process of belonging, at least contemporarily. Race is based on what makes others physically different and therefore truly not of the same biological origins. Racial definitions are usually a clearer way of creating otherness (Banton, 2006).

The biological basis or what a person views as distinct traits between individuals marks a group as genetically distinct from one's own, and ethnicity does not have the same function. According to Weber, one becomes aware of one's ethnicity when one comes into contact with a ...
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