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Lecture 15 Ethnicity: identity and belonging.

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1 Lecture 15 Ethnicity: identity and belonging



4 Primordialist conception Discrete culture groups Share a distinctive linguistic and cultural heritage Often identified with a particular territory

5 Barth – ethnic boundaries Ethnicity develops in opposition to other groups Focus on boundaries, rather than the cultural stuff they contain No objective differences between groups, only those constructed as significant Cultural features that signify the boundary may change

6 Pathan and Baluch ethnicity Pathans identity: patrilineal descent from a common ancestor, adherence to Islam, and shared customs, language and oral literature Baluch tribes: contract of political submission of commoners to a chief Pathans choose to become Baluch when overrun – alienated from Pathan status games Significant others

7 Criticisms of Barth Remains primordialist Assumes people are purely rational actors

8 Abner Cohen – situational ethnicity Hausa migrant communities describe their distinctiveness in cultural terms. Not the product of a distinct culture but are a strategic response to the political and economic requirements of long distance trade.

9 The kola trade Trading is risky A network of Hausa trade centres in the south Trade and the communities dominated by the kola landlords Communities form a moral community Community cohesion is necessary for relations of trust and to fend of competition Culture is a political ideology, explained with reference to the kola trade

10 Situational ethnicity Barth: focus on boundaries and not cultural stuff which is changeable Cohen: both cultural signifiers and boundaries are flexible Groups are constituted in response to political and material conditions – rational actors

11 Hal Levine: Ethnicity as a cognitive practice of classification Workings of the human mind - classification Ethnicity is a hollow category Classification imposes pattern on chaos of experience Ethnicity is that method of classifying people that uses origin as its primary reference

12 Classification and conflict The very act of classifying transforms perceptions of reality Differences between groups are magnified and homogeneity within the group is invented

13 Hagener and Wabag in Papua New Guinea Hagener and Wabag are colonial administrative categories referring to territorial sub-districts They do not map on to clan or kinship identities However,these complex relationships are too elaborate to be used as a classificatory categories. Readily available administrative categories provide a system of labels that best accounted for the similarities and differences

14 Carter Bently: Ethnicity and habitus Bourdieu: ethnic affinity is founded on common life experiences that generate similar habitual dispositions The objective conditions of existence, mediated by systems of symbolic representations, generate dispositions Generational conflicts: the habitus of the young is produced within different conditions of existence than was the case for their parents

15 Ethnicity is not an empty vessel Ethnic identity is based by affective, deeply felt affinities derived from a shared habitus It is anchored internally in experience as well as externally in cognitive distinctions in terms of which that experience is ordered There are objective groundings for perceptions and feelings of ethnic affinity

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