Social difference race and Ethnicity Anthropology of Social Difference

Download 44 Kb.
Size44 Kb.


Race and Ethnicity

Anthropology of Social Difference

  • What is the basis for the recognition of difference within and between social groups? – what is the role of culture?

  • What is the relationship of recognized social differences to political power and inequality? – what are the processes of society? (social stratification)


  • Geertz (1973) on culture -- "a historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life“

  • Geertz on society – “the pattern of social interaction”

  • Culture & society – “capable of wide range of modes of integration”

Geertz on Society and Culture Again…

  • Culture – logico-meaningful integration

  • A unity of style, of logical implication, of meaning and value

  • Fabric of meaning

  • Society – causal-functional integration

  • Kind of integration one finds in an organism

  • All parts united in a single causal web

  • Keep the system going

  • Actually existing network of social relations

Social Differences & Society

  • shift from homogeneous kin based societies (mechanic) to heterogeneous societies of associations (organic) involves increased social differentiation

  • Increased differentiation & integration = INCREASED SOCIAL STRATIFICATION (social differences)

Society & Social Stratification

  • inequality in society

  • the unequal distribution of goods and services, rights and obligations, power and prestige

  • all attributes of positions in society, not attributes of individuals

  • Stratified society is:

  • when a society exhibits stratification it means that there are significant breaks in the distribution of goods services, rights obligations power prestige

  • as a result of which are formed collectivities or groups we call strata

Stratification & Society

  • Integration and equilibrium

  • Society is a system of action

  • stratification is a generalized aspect of the structure of all social systems

  • Social Strata emerge from the process of differentiation and evaluation in the form of social statuses, differences, and classes

Stratification & Social Power

  • Power – domination and the process of legitimization by which a dominant status group becomes accepted as dominant

  • pre-industrial society – power based on traditional respect or allegiance to charismatic leaders


  • egalitarian societies - no social groups having greater access to economic resources, power, or prestige - usually foragers

  • rank societies - do not have unequal access to economic resources or to power, but they do contain social groups having unequal access to prestige

  • class societies - unequal access to all 3 advantages, economic resources, power, prestige

  • open & closed class systems - the extent to which mobility occurs allowing people to pass through inequalities

Understanding Social Differences: Status

  • status - ascribed & achieved

  • ascribed status - social positions that people hold by virtue of birth

  • sex, age, family relationships, birth into class or caste

  • achieved status - social positions attained as a result of individual action

  • shift from homogenous kin based societies to heterogeneous society of associations involves growth in importance of achieved status

Race & Society

  • There are no biological human races

  • Racial social stratification is built upon idea that social differences are linked with hereditary characteristics which differ between races

  • As indicated by perceived physical differences and cloaked in the language of biology

  • social races – groups assumed to have a biological basis but social constructed

  • Racism – systematic social and political bias based on idea of race

  • Operates as a form of class

American Anthropological Assoc. statement on race

  • “Evidence from the analysis of genetics (e.g., DNA) indicates that most physical variation, about 94%, lies within so-called racial groups.

  • Conventional geographic ‘racial’ groupings differ from one another only in about 6% of their genes….

  • ‘Race’ thus evolved as a world view, a body of prejudgments that distorts our ideas about human differences and group behavior….

  • The ‘racial’ world view was invented to assign some groups to perpetual low status, while others were permitted access to privilege, power, and wealth”

Race: A Brief History

Distribution of Human Skin Color before 1400 A.D.

Race & Age of Discovery

  • Race did not exist until the European expansion and exploration beginning 1500

  • ancient Greeks -- first among civilized nations around the Mediterranean

  • did not link physical appearance and cultural attainment.

  • Ancient Greeks granted civilized status to the Nile Valley Nubians who were among the darkest skinned people they knew

  • did not grant it to European barbarians to the north who were lighter skinned than they were

  • People were divided on the basis of religion, class or language or status

Europe & Race before Age of Discovery

  • up until 14th cent. in Europe cultural & social evolution based on the idea of progress from kinbased societies to civil society through governance & law

  • after 16th cent. in Europe dispositions of blood distinguished the character of difference (racist notions of social & cultural evolution)

After 1500

  • European exploration – increased contact with other human societies

  • exploration turned to conquest and Ethnocentric feeling of European superiority

The Enlightenment: 17th & 18th Century Europe

  • race equated with “breeding stock”

  • 1700s – Enlightenment science

  • social phenomena and the world’s peoples into natural schemes

Formal Human Classification
Linneaus Systemae Naturae, 1758

  • Europeaeus

  • White; muscular; hair – long, flowing;
    eyes blue

  • Americanus

  • Reddish; erect; hair – black, straight, thick; wide nostrils

  • Asiaticus

  • Sallow (yellow); hair black; eyes dark

  • Africanus

  • Black; hair – black, frizzled; skin silky; nose flat; lips tumid

1795 Johann Friedrich Blumenbach: ”race” classifications

  • Malayan

  • Ethiopian

  • American

  • Mongolian

  • Caucasian

  • coined the term "Caucasian" because he believed that the Caucasus region of Asia Minor produced "the most beautiful race of men".

1830s: Philadelphia doctor and polygenist Samuel Morton

  • collected hundreds of human skulls of known races

  • measured them by filling the skulls with lead pellets and then pouring the pellets into a glass measuring cup

  • tables assign the highest brain capacity to Europeans (with the English highest of all)

  • Second rank goes to Chinese, third to Southeast Asians and Polynesians, fourth to American Indians, and last place to Africans and Australian aborigines.

  • work establish the “scientific basis” for physical anthropology but also the idea that race is inherently biological

Stephen Jay Gould:
“The Mis-measure of Man” (1981)

  • Re-analyzed Morton’s data

  • Morton’s racist bias -- prevented identification of fully overlapping measurements among the racial skull samples he used

Race & Social Status

  • Operates as an ASCRIBED status

  • Race and racial differences as a state of nature

  • Sociobiological notion that racism derives from genes that cause groups to compete against those who are genetically different

  • Nature outside of culture

  • Phenotype & blood quantum

Social Status and Affects of “Race”

  • Life chances

  • Where you live

  • How you are treated

  • Access to wealth, power and prestige

  • Access to education, housing, and other valued resources

  • Life expectancy

Society & First Nation Health

  • Compared with the Canadian population in 1996, the First Nations population (on and off reserves) rated lower on all educational attainment.

  • Among First Nations, the 1996 labour participation rate was 59% and the employment rate was 43%.

  • Rates for Canada as a whole were 68% and 62%, respectively.

  • First Nations unemployment rate was twice the Canadian rate in 1996.

Society & First Nation health

  • 56.9% of homes were considered adequate in 1999--00.

  • 33.6% of First Nations communities had at least 90% of their homes connected to a community sewage disposal system.

  • In 1999, 65 First Nations and Inuit communities were under a boil water advisory for varying lengths of time

  • Many communicable diseases can be traced to poor water quality

Variation in recognized “racial” types

  • US

  • Bi-racial society

  • Japan

  • a nation whose population is greater than 99% born in Japan

  • racism in Japan is often not directed so much against people of a particular race or ethnic group but rather against those who are non-Japanese

  • purity

  • Brazil

  • long history with slavery and as a recipient of emigrants from all over the world

  • racial paradise image

  • process of whitening -- racial and cultural means through which outsiders became "Brazilian"

  • While racial divisions in Brazil are not clearly defined, class lines are

  • Canada

  • Vertical mosaic

Social “Races”

  • Geertz (1973) on culture -- "a historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life“

  • Geertz on society – “the pattern of social interaction”

  • Culture & society – “capable of wide range of modes of integration”

Ethnicity: A Cultural Logic of Race?

  • ethnicity forged in the process of historical time

  • subject to shifts in meaning

  • shifts in referents or markers of ethnic identity

  • subject to political manipulations

  • ethnic identity is not a function of primordial ties, although it may be described as such

  • always the genesis of specific historical forces that are simultaneously structural & cultural

Building Blocks of Ethnicity/Ethnic Identity

  • associated with distinctions between language, religion, historical experience, geographic isolation, kinship, notions of race (phenotype)

  • may include collective name, belief in common descent, sense of solidarity, association with a specific territory, clothing, house types, personal adornment, food, technology, economic activities, general lifestyle

cultural markers of difference must be visible to members and non-members

  • valued markers of difference by insiders may become comic or derided by outsiders

  • caricature and exaggeration frequently mark outsider depictions of boundary mechanisms

  • stereotype is one form

ethnicity and boundaries

  • where there is a group there is some sort of boundary

  • where there are boundaries there are mechanisms for maintaining boundaries

  • cultural markers of difference that must be visible to members and non-members

  • Code switching

  • Marked and unmarked categories

Boundary maintenance

  • The ethnic boundary canalizes social life

  • Boundaries may also be territorial

  • Distinctions between us and them criteria for judgment of value and performance and restrictions on interactions

  • Allows for the persistence of cultural differences

  • Identities are signaled as well as embraced

  • All ethnic groups in a poly-ethnic society act to maintain dichotomies and differences


  • fluidity of ethnic identity

  • ethnic groups vanish, people move between ethnic groups, new ethnic groups come into existence

  • ethnogenesis

  • emergence of new ethnic group, part of existing group splits & forms new ethnic group, members of two or more groups fuse

Ethnicity, Culture, and Society

  • ethnicity is founded upon structural inequities among dissimilar groups into a single political entity -- society

  • based on cultural differences & similarities perceived as shared -- culture

Ethnicity and class

  • Many poly-ethnic societies are ranked according to ethnic membership

  • May be a high correlation between ethnicity and class

Ethnicity as identity formation and political organization

  • Ethnic groups – those human groups that entertain a SUBJECTIVE belief in their common descent because of similarities of physical type or of customs or of both

  • feelings of ethnicity & associated behavior vary in intensity within groups (& persons) over time & space

  • Belief in group affinity can have important consequences for the formation of a political community

“Ethnic” Groups

  • Geertz (1973) on culture -- "a historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life“

  • Geertz on society – “the pattern of social interaction”

  • Culture & society – “capable of wide range of modes of integration”

Directory: 200601 -> anth1000b

Download 44 Kb.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2023
send message

    Main page