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Ethnicity And Identity Politics



Colin Wayne Leach is a social psychologist interested in how people emotionally experience their status-oriented comparisons to other people. He studied at Boston University (B.A., 1989; M.A. 1991) and the University of Michigan (Ph.D. 1995) and has been on the faculty of Swarthmore College and the University of California-Santa Cruz in the United States. Currently, he is Reader in psychology at the University of Sussex, England. A former Ford and Chancellor’s fellow, Colin has been a visiting scholar in Australia, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. In addition to the articles he has published in social psychology, political psychology, and sociology, Colin has co-edited two books: Immigrant Life in the U.S.: Multi-disciplinary Perspectives (Routledge, 2003) and The Social Life of Emotions (Cambridge, 2004).
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Colin Wayne Leach, Lisa M Brown, and Ross E Worden. Ethnicity and Identity Politics.
In Lester Kurtz (Editor-in-Chief), Vol. [1] of Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, & Conflict,
3 vols. pp. [758-768] Oxford: Elsevier.
international conflict. Nonetheless, certain factors appear
to be associated with what is commonly conceived as
interethnic conflict. The overlapping of language, reli-
gion, and ethnicity within nondemocratic systems with
ethnic divisions of labor and a history of past and current
discrimination seem to be associated with the increased
incidence of interethnic conflict. The reduction, manage-
ment, or prevention of interethnic conflict appears to
require the reduction of these characteristics and condi-
tions. Interethnic cooperation requires attentiveness on
the part of state leaders to abjure discriminatory policies,
to redress past wrongs, to provide for political representa-
tion and economic opportunity, to foster multicultural
education, and to assist in the promotion of an interna-
tional environment that is conducive to the peaceful
resolution of disputes.
See also: Clan and Tribal Conflict; Cultural Anthropology
Studies of Conflict; Enemy, Concept and Identity of;
Ethnicity and Identity Politics; Prevention of Violent
Conflict by Structural Accommodation; Ritual and
Symbolic Behavior; Territorial Disputes; Violent Conflict:
Contemporary Warfare, Mass Violence and Genocide -
Dataset 1985–2005, Typologies, and Trends
Further Reading
Banton, M. (2000). Ethnic conflict. Sociology 34(3), 481–498.
Bercovitch, J. (2003). Managing internationalized ethnic conflict: Evaluating
the role and relevance of mediation. World Affairs 166(1),5668.
Brown, C. and Karim, F. (eds.) (1995). Playing the ‘communal card.’
Communal violence and human rights. New York: Human Rights
Brown, M. (ed.) (1994). Ethnic conflict and international security.
Princeton, NJ: Princeton.
Esman, M. (1992). Ethnic politics. Ithaca, NY: Cornell.
Fox, J. (2002). Ethnic minorities and the clash of civilizations: A
quantitative analysis of Huntington’s thesis. British Journal of Political
Science 32(3), 415–434.
Galvan, D. (2006). Joking kinship as a syncretic institution. Cahiers
d’Etudes Africaines 46(4), 809–834.
Gurr, T. (ed.) (1993). Minorities at risk: A global view of ethnopolitical
conflict. Washington, DC: US Institute of Peace.
Gurr, T. and Harff, B. (1994). Ethnic conflict in world politics. New York:
Henderson, E. (1997). Culture or contiguity: ‘Ethnic conflict,’ the
similarity of states, and the onset of war, 1820–1989. Journal of
Conflict Resolution 41(5), 649–668.
Henderson, E. A. (2000). When states implode: The correlates of
Africa’s civil wars, 1950–92. Studies in Comparative International
Development 35(2), 28–47.
Horowitz, D. (1985). Ethnic groups in conflict. Los Angeles: University of
Huntington, S. (1996). The clash of civilizations and the remaking of
world order. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Mazrui, A. (1990). Cultural forces in world politics. London: James
Midlarsky, M. (ed.) (1992). The internationalization of communal strife.
New York: Routledge.
Ryan, S. (1995). Ethnic conflict and international relations, 2nd edn.
Brookfield, VT: Dartmouth.
Sambanis, N. (2000). Partition as a solution to ethnic war: An
empirical critique of the theoretical literature. World Politics
52(4), 437–483.
Tiryakian, E. A. (2004). Introduction: Comparative perspectives on
ethnicity and ethnic conflicts. International Journal of Comparative
Sociology 45(3–4), 147–159.
Wimmer, A. (2003). Democracy and ethno-religious conflict in Iraq.
Survival 45(4), 111–134.
Ethnicity and Identity Politics
Colin Wayne Leach, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK
Lisa M Brown, Austin College, Sherman, TX, USA
Ross E Worden, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA
ª2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Role of Ethnic Identity and Politics in Conflict
The Dialectics of Ethnic Identity Politics
Further Reading
Affirmative Action An umbrella term for policies and
programs that recruit subordinate groups, such as
women, people with disabilities, and people of certain
ethnic groups, for educational and occupational
Dominant Group A group within a society that has high
status and/or disproportionate control over power and
In-group A group to which a person feels he or she
758 Ethnicity and Identity Politics
Majority Group A subgroup of people that consists of
the larger part of a specified population.
Minority Group A subgroup of people that consists of
the smaller of two or more groups from a given
Out-group A group to which a person feels that he or
she does not belong.
Subordinate Group A group within a society that has
limited access to power, resources, and social status.
Many believe political activity centered around ethnic
identity is a major source of divisive conflict in the
world today. Some scholars argue that the world is in
the throes of an ethnic revival that threatens to wrench
apart established systems of order. The apparent increase
in ethnicity-based solidarity and political activity is
most often attributed to the opportunity presented by
recent shifts in the nature of political, economic, and
moral authority. Some argue that the dissolution of
several multi-ethnic states, such as the Soviet Union,
Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia, has opened the way for
a new wave of ethnic group mobilization in places like
Uzbekistan, Latvia, Slovakia, Croatia, and Serbia. As in
the period of rapid African, Asian, and Caribbean deco-
lonization in the middle of the twentieth century, ethnic
identity appears to have become the currency of deferred
aspirations for political, economic, and cultural empow-
erment. This is no less true within existing nation-states
as groups like the Basque in Spain, the Hutu in Rwanda,
the Tamil in Sri Lanka, and the Flemish in Belgium use
ethnic identity to mobilize and maneuver people in order
to challenge existing societal arrangements.
In this age of political, economic, and moral uncer-
tainty, many view the politics of ethnic identity as an
attempt by those with little power to affirm their threa-
tened identities and to assert their claims for material
resources and political clout. For most subordinate groups
their main bargaining tool is the threat of societal instabil-
ity. As such, ethnic identity politics constitute a threat to
established authorities and centralizing values, such as
individual rights, majority rule, and a homogeneous
national identity, that are the basis of these authorities’
governance. Thus, in the popular view, it is the groups
small in number, low in power, and hungry for resources –
such as the Chechens in Russia, the Catholic–Irish in
Ulster, the Que
´cois in Canada, native peoples in
North America, indigenous groups in Latin America –
that assert ethnic identity as a political strategy by which
their lots can be improved.
This view of ethnic identity politics frames ethnic
identity as a tool used by the politically less powerful
to oppose the status quo. The perception is that subordinate
or minority ethnic groups are the causes of divisive con-
flict. However, this perspective leaves unexamined the
role of ethnicity and identity politics in the construction
and maintenance of political power by majority and domi-
nant groups. Rather than being solely ‘a weapon of the
weak’, ethnic identity politics also may be central to
modern forms of state formation and maintenance. For
example, the early development of modern nation-states
relied greatly on the use of majority or dominant ethnic
identity and its associated politics. The political entities of
France, Germany, New Zealand, and Spain were all based
on the articulation of a national identity that was, to some
degree, ethnic in nature. Certain ethnic features were
consolidated into a national identity while other ethnic
features were excluded. In Spain, for example, Castellano
became the official national language despite the fact that
people in several regions speak distinct languages (e.g.,
Galicia, the Basque country, Catalonia). In a similar man-
ner, ethnic identity is an important part of contemporary
political efforts to maintain established authorities in
increasingly pluralistic states such as Canada, Germany,
India, Russia, and the United States. Rather than being an
instrumental strategy designed to take advantage of a
crisis in political authority, ethnic identity politics have
been and continue to be central to the workings of mod-
ern nation-states. In fact, it may be difficult to separate
modern politics from either identity politics or ethnicity.
Indeed, Mary Bernstein argues that identity is necessary
to the generation of political movements as it rallies
individuals around a common cause and mobilizes collec-
tive action.
In this article we examine ethnic identity politics by
first reviewing the respective roles of ethnic identity and
politics in group conflict. In discussing ethnic identity
politics we try to explain its prevalence, with special
attention to its possible psychological and social functions.
We then review the ways in which the political process is
rooted in conflict, as well as the special place that group
identity has in politics. Next, we describe ethnic identity
politics as a dialectical struggle for power by dominant
and subordinate groups by using ethnic identity to mobi-
lize and maneuver their respective constituencies. Such
Ethnicity and Identity Politics 759
contestation can be violent or peaceful, and we examine
the factors important to each approach. This includes a
comparison of the decidedly nonviolent philosophies of
Mohandas K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. with the
more ambivalent perspective of Frantz Fanon. In a con-
cluding section we address the possible futures of
ethnicity-based identity politics, with a special interest
in the impact of globalization. Throughout this article we
review the constructs of ethnic identity and politics from
both a macrostructural level of analysis (drawing mainly
from work in sociology, political science, and anthropol-
ogy) and a microstructural level of analysis (drawing mainly
from psychosocial research).
The Role of Ethnic Identity and Politics
in Conflict
As mentioned in the introduction, many observers believe
that ethnic identity politics produces conflict. However, it
is difficult to assess the validity of this claim because both
ethnic identity and politics are used as separate explana-
tions in scholarship on peace, conflict, and violence. Their
combination in the term ‘ethnic identity politics’ offers
little clarification of which of the constituent elements
leads to conflict. Is it ethnic identity itself, so that any
collective identification around ethnicity will, by its
exclusion of certain nonmembers, lead to competition
and conflict? If so, this suggests that politics is but one
arena in which the conflict over ethnic identity is played
out. Another possibility is that conflict is likely only when
ethnic identity is used as a tool in political battles. This
suggests that something about the political context makes
ethnic identity particularly conflictual. These two possi-
bilities hint at the complicated relationship between
ethnic identity and politics. They also suggest some of
the many ways in which the combination of the two
phenomena in ‘ethnic identity politics’ may lead to con-
flict. Given this complexity we will examine ethnic
identity and politics separately, with special attention to
the role of each in intergroup conflict, before discussing
their combination.
Ethnic Identity
Explaining the prevalence of ethnic identity
There is little doubt that ethnicity is the most widely used
description of group identity in the world today. This
prevalence may be due to (1) the way ethnicity is com-
monly conceptualized by both scholars and lay people;
(2) the special place ethnicity has had in the formation of
modern nation-states; and (3) the subjective reality and
psychosocial benefits of ethnic identification. We discuss
these three possible explanations in turn.
First, the conceptualization view proposes that ethni-
city is a popular description of mass identity only because
it encompasses so many of the other forms of group
identity discussed in the modern period; the term
ethnicity can refer to ‘race’, culture, geographic region,
language/dialect, religion, and sometimes economic or
social position. Ethnicity is often used as a proxy for all
of these terms and is also used to describe groups that are
characterized by some, often complicated, combination of
them. For example, identity politics and group conflict in
Northern Ireland is often described as ethnic without
much concern for the specific contributions of its
religious (Protestant/Catholic), political (Unionist/
Nationalist), national (British/Irish), power (dominant/
subordinate), numerical (majority/minority), geographic
(rural/urban; Northern Ireland/Ireland/Britain), or socio-
linguistic (English/Gaelic; British accent/Irish accent)
dimensions. Given this reality it is important, from an
analytic point of view, to understand what ethnicity is
meant to describe in its particular usages. Describing a
conflict as ‘ethnic’ often says very little about it; therefore,
serious analysis requires a more exacting description of the
parties involved and their relationship to each other.
A second, more historical and political, perspective
suggests that ethnicity is a major form of group identity
mainly because it was essential to the early development
of the nation-state, currently the primary form of political
organization. The ascendance of the modern nation-state
occurred through the active political construction of
nationalities around language/dialect, geographic region,
religion, and other components of ethnic identity. In
agreement with a host of other scholars, such as
Benedict Anderson, Ernest Gellner, Eric Hobsbawm,
and Thomas Nairn, in 1991 political philosopher
Etienne Balibar argued that modern nations are predi-
cated on the coming together of disparate peoples as part
of a ‘fictive ethnicity’ that identifies them as one group.
From its modern inception, the nation-state has relied on
ethnic identity as a tool through which the body politic
could be formed and re-formed. Thus, in his 1990 book,
Iron Cages: Race and Culture in 19th Century America, histor-
ian Ronald Takaki describes the efforts of the First
Congress of the United States to establish the require-
ments of citizenship in the new Republic. In an attempt to
replicate their own identity, the Congress believed good
citizens must be republican in values, virtuous in morals,
male, and White. Throughout this formative period, eth-
nicity, as well as other characteristics, was always an
implicit, if not explicit, criterion for political and eco-
nomic enfranchisement.
The third perspective on the prevalence of ethnic
identity argues that ethnicity is a psychologically mean-
ingful and beneficial form of group identity. This would
explain why ethnic identities continue to resonate with
people, despite the inexact and shifting basis of ethnic
760 Ethnicity and Identity Politics
categorization and the fact that political elites have often
manipulated its meaning. We discuss this view in greater
detail in the following section.
The psychosocial functions of ethnic identity
Ethnic identity may be one of the most prevalent forms of
group identity because it can serve at least four psycho-
social functions for group members: (1) providing
self-esteem; (2) bestowing social status; (3) supplying
existential security and knowledge; and (4) granting social
First, as with personal and group identity more gener-
ally, ethnic identity may provide self-esteem and thus
facilitate psychological well-being. Identification with an
ethnic group can be an important source of self-esteem that
is not solely dependent on individual status and achieve-
ment. This may be especially important for members of
ethnic groups that are devalued by the larger society.
Psychological research suggests that strong identification
with stigmatized groups acts as a buffer against feelings of
individual inadequacy in the face of low status. By attribut-
ing the negative evaluation to others’ bias, people maintain
a positive view of themselves and an optimal level of self-
esteem. This process has been used to explain the general
finding that Black Americans have not been found to have
lower self-esteem than White Americans despite awareness
that they are not well thought of in the society at large.
Second, established groups, such as ethnic groups,
provide their members a certain degree of social status
based upon their standing within the group. Cultural
competence, for example, as demonstrated by language
skill or story telling may bring one status within the group
and this can also be an important source of self-worth.
Third, ethnicity can provide existential security by
affirming members’ goals, values, beliefs, practices, and
norms. Participating in a socially validated group gives a
sense of belonging and, in most cases, also provides
knowledge essential to the successful navigation of the
Finally, active membership in and identification with
an ethnic group can protect individuals from collective
threats, such as physical attack or political exclusion, and
enable them to take collective action. If the ethnic group
is treated as a collective entity by others, members share a
common fate and therefore benefit from some degree of
coordination. Recognizing this interdependence may in
turn foster group identity and cohesion, binding the group
more tightly together and improving its ability to respond
to external threats.
Ethnic identity and subordinate versus dominant
group status
While membership in any ethnic group can provide psy-
chological benefits, people’s experience of ethnic identity
may differ depending upon the position of the group.
Research on group identity reveals that members of
dominant groups often have the privilege of their culture
and interests being the mainstream. As such, their ethnic
identity is generally affirmed in the culture and institu-
tions of the state. Consequently, members of dominant
groups often prefer conceptualizations of the nation as
consisting of one (ethnic) group. In contrast, subordinate
group members are by definition devalued within the
society. While they may view themselves as members of
the nation, they simultaneously identify with their ethnic
group. Their preference is to maintain these dual identi-
ties. In addition, they tend to prefer notions of pluralism
in which they affirm multiple identities in contrast to
assimilation in which they must disavow identities in
service to the dominant identity.
Ethnic identification and conflict
As noted above, ethnic group identity can provide a
number of social, psychological, and practical benefits to
those who so identify. However, a great deal of theoretical
and empirical work has examined the role of ethnic iden-
tification in the promotion of conflict. There is, in fact, a
long tradition of psychosocial theorizing that views the
formation and maintenance of identity as inherently con-
flictual. Hegel provides an influential perspective, in The
Phenomenology of Mind (1841), where he describes the
process by which people develop identity as a ‘‘life-and-
death struggle’’ between dominant and subordinate
groups. Hegel’s framework can be found in numerous
approaches to group identity and conflict, including that
of Karl Marx, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and
Frantz Fanon. Many psychodynamically oriented theor-
ists also share Hegel’s view that identity development
depends upon a recognition of self through a recognition
of and differentiation from others.
According to Hegel, each group tries to achieve domi-
nant status by defining itself as superior to others. The
dominant and subordinate groups are thus locked in a
‘dialectical’ struggle for identity in which each group’s
identity is defined by its relationship to the other. The
violent conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi groups in
Rwanda may serve to illustrate how the dialectical frame-
work applies to ethnic conflict. Since invading the region
centuries ago, the Tutsi minority in Rwanda has domi-
nated the Hutu majority, controlling the bulk of the
economic, political, and cultural institutions. The Tutsi
were thus able to define themselves as superior to the
Hutu, whom they held in low esteem. The Hutu, given
their subordinate position in the dialectic, were thus
forced to displace the Tutsi in order to define themselves
as something other than subordinate. This has often led
the Hutu to violently oppose their subjugation, as in the
1959 uprising that displaced the Tutsi king and led to the
formation of a democratic republic, at least on paper, in
1962. Of course, the historically dominant Tutsi have
Ethnicity and Identity Politics 761
sought to regain power whenever deposed, locking both
groups into what seems like an interminable contest for
power and the right to not be subordinated to the other
group. In the absence of a truly pluralistic form of govern-
ment, each group’s ascendance to dominance guarantees
the subordination of the other and thus prompts the sub-
ordinate’s eventual opposition and attempt at reversing
their position.
The concept of ethnocentrism closely parallels these
ideas in its explanation of ethnic and other group con-
flicts. Social Identity Theory, developed largely by social
psychologists Henri Tajfel and John Turner, formalizes
the notion captured in ethnocentrism that groups tend to
see themselves as superior to others. It has spurred a great
deal of empirical research on the social competition
between groups for a positive identity. In studies with a
wide variety of social groups, ranging from ethnolinguis-
tic to occupational to laboratory created, this research has
shown that (in)group members tend to favor their own
groups over other groups. That is, people generally rate
the personal attributes, language, and opinions of their
group more positively than those of other groups and,
when given the chance, allocate more material resources
to their own group than to other groups. Given that
people strive to establish the superiority of their own
group over others, it is not surprising that when given
an opportunity to compare groups directly, they tend to
favor their own group.
Despite the fact that most contemporary research on
ethnocentrism has been conducted in Western Europe
and the United States, the phenomenon does not appear
to be limited to these regions. In the 1960s a team of
anthropologists and psychologists collaborated to conduct
what they called ‘‘A Cooperative Cross-Cultural Study of
Ethnocentrism’’ to assess the prevalence of ethnocentrism
in Northern Canada, East Africa, West Africa, New
Guinea, and 17 other regions around the world. While
in-groups did not consider themselves superior to all out-
groups on every possible dimension, in-groups did
believe that they had more moral virtue than others.
Therefore, morality-based ethnocentrism appears to be
an ubiquitous aspect of intergroup relations.
A great deal of theoretical and empirical work suggests
that social competition is the predominant way in which
people achieve a secure and positive identity for them-
selves. In much of Western philosophy and psychology,
identity is itself about conflict. Identity, and struggles to
attain and maintain it, may therefore be an independent
source of conflict and violence between ethnic groups in
the political arena. Nevertheless, conflict is not the only
way that individual or group identity forms or maintains
itself. Large-scale international studies of intergroup con-
flict have not found that strong and positive group identity
necessarily leads to conflict with or derogation of other
groups. Similarly, research on Social Identity Theory in
Europe, North America, and New Zealand has not estab-
lished that all groups, under all circumstances, construct
their identities through invidious comparisons with others.
A number of contextual factors, such as control over
resources, perceived threat, competition, and the scarcity
of resources, can promote conflict in terms of group
Given its broad definition and its importance in the
construction of the modern nation-state, ethnicity is
an exceedingly popular description of human social
groups. Contemporary social science uses ethnic group
membership and identity to explain everything from
purchasing patterns to musical taste to war. It is clear
that despite its fuzzy and ever-changing definition, ethni-
city plays a central role in our understanding of ourselves
and the world in which we live. Group conflict is often
understood in terms of ethnicity, by both participants and
observers, because ethnic identity is one of the most
salient social groupings in political and social life, parti-
cularly among ethnic subordinate groups. While ethnic
identification itself may promote conflict between groups
that define themselves ethnocentrically, much of ethnic
conflict occurs in the context of broader political struggles
for power and dominance.
Political power is typically gained and held in an outright
conflict between rivals. Political opponents must be
defeated at the polls, in legislative chambers, in the
media, and sometimes in the streets. Political conflicts
appear rampant even in single party or dictatorial politi-
cal systems where rival factions and administrative
departments within the same political organization battle
for position and power. Of course, the level of conflict in a
political system is related to the structure of that system
and the degree to which it pits constituencies against one
another. In ‘winner takes all’ and two-party systems, such
as the United States, there can be great conflict between
parties to achieve the majority position. In parliamentary
or proportional systems, power-sharing and coalition-
building may be more likely, although it is not clear
whether such systems reduce the level of conflict between
parties when the parties are not forced to cooperate to
achieve a majority.
Given the level of conflict inherent to the political
process, all politics may rely on a form of identity
politics to mobilize and maneuver the specific groups
of people needed to gain or maintain power. Political
parties with names such as Green, Labor, The People’s
Party, New Jewel Movement, National Front,
Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or Hezbollah identify
762 Ethnicity and Identity Politics
themselves in a way that supports their constituents’
identification with the party and its platform. In some
cases, political parties are explicit in their appeals to
ethnic identity, as with the Tamil United Liberation
Front or the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress in Sri
Lanka, and the Scottish National Party in the United
Kingdom. Throughout the world politics is infused with
both subtle and obvious appeals to the ethnic identity of
potential supporters. For example, in the 1970s and
1980s, the leaders of the ruling Congress Party in India
went to great lengths to appear strong to their predomi-
nantly Hindu constituency by putting down a rebellion
organized by members of the Sikh religious minority. At
the same time, the Congress Party made great efforts to
end the uprising in such a way as to also appear fair and
tolerant to their Sikh supporters. In ethnically diverse
states such as India, South Africa, and the United States,
political groups depend on support from multiple ethnic
constituencies and must therefore make complicated
appeals to multiple groups.
However, numerous cases exist in which ethnicity has
been used as a ‘wedge issue’ to divide political support
along ethnic lines. Jill Quadagno, in her 1995 book, The
Color of Welfare, discusses US President Nixon’s quiet
encouragement of affirmative action programs for some
ethnic minorities as a calculated attempt to erode White
American support for the Democratic party. As mentioned
in the introduction, dominant groups can use identity
politics to maintain and consolidate their own political
power while limiting that of others. Quadagno documents
such a case in US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s
efforts to promote the SocialSecurity Act of 1935 in the US
Congress. Many (White) Southern Democrats opposed the
act because it would provide an income to unemployed
and retired Black Americans that would exceed the
prevailing wages in the region. To guarantee the support
of the Southerners in his party, Roosevelt advocated a
provision that excluded agricultural and domestic laborers.
Because Black Americans typically filled these positions,
the provision excluded most Black Americans from a major
advance in social welfare and full political enfranchise-
ment. Here, the consolidation of Democratic power and
the maintenance of White ethnic domination in the South
were achieved at the expense of a subordinate ethnic
Examining ethnic identity and politics separately suggests
that each is related to the other in complex ways. Ethnic
identity and politics are both powerful means of social
differentiation and major sources of conflict. It is therefore
not surprising that their combination in ‘ethnic identity
politics’ is expected to promote extreme conflict, and
often violence. As we have seen, ethnic identity may be
used politically by both dominant and subordinate groups,
although their particular strategies may differ. In fact,
ethnic identity politics are an important means by which
dominance is achieved and maintained, but also
challenged. Hegel’s characterization of identity may
therefore also be fitting for the politics of ethnic identity,
as dominant and subordinate groups are locked in a dia-
lectical battle for power. In a dialectical struggle, one
party’s use of ethnic identity to achieve political domi-
nance can work to encourage resistance by another party
through the use of its own ethnic identity. In this way
attempts at dominance, rather than always leading to
another’s subordination, can lead to resistance and a coun-
ter move for power. Consequently, Hegel, and the many
others who share his basic assumptions, view the dialectic
of identity as inherently conflictual, and often violent.
The Dialectics of Ethnic Identity Politics
In 1951, political philosopher Hannah Arendt argued in
The Origins of Totalitarianism, that ‘‘the only direct, una-
dulterated consequence of 19th century antisemitic
movements was not Nazism but, on the contrary,
Zionism, which, at least in its Western ideological form,
was a kind of counterideology, the ‘answer’ to antisemit-
ism.’’ While Arendt was careful to point out that Jewish
identity was not simply a reaction to anti-Semitism, she
described the ways in which attempts at political dom-
inance that use ethnic exclusion can fuel resistance in the
form of oppositional ethnic identity politics. In the follow-
ing section we discuss the identity politics of dominant
and subordinate ethnic groups, with special attention to
ways in which their power positions affect their identities
and their actions. It is important to note, however, that
while some groups may operate from well-established
positions of domination or subordination, groups are
also deeply affected by their perceived potential for dom-
ination or subordination. In the case of equal power
groups, for example, the political dynamics of their ethnic
identity may have a great deal to do with their desire for
future domination or their fear of future subordination.
Dominant Groups
Given their advantaged political position, dominant
groups tend to engage in ethnic identity politics as a
means to secure or consolidate power, as mentioned in
the preceding section on politics. Instrumentalist theories
within political science argue that elites manipulate the
masses by using ethnicity to incite fear or panic, or to get
constituents to ‘rally around the flag’. The Soviet Union,
for example, had a long history of mobilizing and manip-
ulating ethnic identity (often referred to as ‘nationality’)
to maintain the central authority’s political power. Even
Ethnicity and Identity Politics 763
before coming to power, the Bolsheviks strategically sup-
ported national ‘self-determination’ in order to gain the
support of the many ethnic groups incorporated into the
Russian empire. Later, in the 1920s and 1930s, Stalin
created five separate ethnic groups out of one, by dividing
the Central Asian region of Turkestan into five republics:
Kazakhstan, Kirghizistan, Tadzhikistan, Turkmenistan,
and Uzbekistan. By outlawing the religion and alphabet
these groups had in common, Stalin promoted separate
ethnic identities in an attempt to neutralize the pan-
Turkic sentiment he saw as threatening the national
integrity of the Soviet Union. Thus, Stalin promoted the
distinct ethnic identities of Uzbek and Kazakh as a coun-
tervailing force against an identification as Muslim or
Turkic that might have unified Central Asians against
Moscow. In this case, an authority used ethnic identity
politics to limit the potentially threatening identity
politics of subordinate groups. However, in the following
section on subordinate groups, we will discuss ways in
which Central Asian investment in these manipulated
ethnic identities came back to haunt the Soviet Union.
Another example is the Jordanian government’s ‘Jordan
First’ campaign. The actual ‘Jordan First’ document is best
summed up by its stated goal of enacting ‘‘a working plan
that seeks to deepen the sense of national identity among
citizens where everyone acts as partners in building and
developing the Kingdom.’’ Jordanian national identity is
weaker than those of many other Arab states and a com-
pounding factor is that around half of Jordan’s citizens are
Palestinians. Since the influx of Palestinian refugees that
occurred after 1967, Jordan has had to deal with varying
levels of hostility between Jordanians and Palestinians. In
September 1970 King Hussein launched military attacks
against Palestinian militant groups in Jordan that were
attacking Israel. This ‘Black September’, as many
Palestinians refer to it, is still a major source of tension
between Jordanians and Palestinians today. Thus, with
the number of Palestinians in Jordan so significant and the
tension between Jordanians and Palestinians often worri-
some, King Abdullah II launched the ‘Jordan First’
campaign in October 2002 in an attempt to consolidate
the disparate interests of his country in the face of the
then impending US invasion of Iraq which threatened to
destabilize the region. The campaign also attempts to
strengthen the ‘national identity’ by saying that above all
else, people have to place the interests of the Kingdom first.
The Jordanian government crafted the document to praise
pluralism and cite it as part of the Kingdom’s strength but
was careful to say that it is ‘‘imperative (to place) Jordan’s
national interest in the forefront of all the considerations of
the State and the homeland, Government and civil
society.’’ It remains to be seen if these attempts by the
Jordanian government will be successful in uniting the
It is important to note, however, that the ethnic iden-
tity politics of dominant groups is not necessarily as
conscious or calculated as some of our examples suggest.
More subtle strategies of maintaining political power
have been analyzed by theories of group dominance or
hegemony. These theories argue that groups with well-
established and relatively secure political dominance
need little in the way of explicit ethnic identity politics
to maintain their position. Such groups can utilize ideol-
ogies of conservatism and individualism to protect the
status quo, and thus protect their privileged position with-
out the appearance of self-interest. However, as group
dominance theories argue, this lack of self-interest is
often more apparent than real, and thus dominant politi-
cal positions may always be rooted in the promotion of a
particular ethnic group’s agenda. In contemporary cases
of well-established ethnic subordination, dominant ethnic
identification often occurs in the terms of nationalism. A
person who benefits from the status quo identifies as
‘truly’ American or British or French and valorizes the
founders of his or her ‘great nation’ – founders who often
share his or her ethnicity – without suspicion of strategic
ethnic identity politics or ethnocentrism. In 1995 Michael
Billig described this sort of clandestine politics of ethnic
identity as a ‘‘banal nationalism.’’ Although group dom-
inance theories (e.g., world systems theory, social
dominance theory) explain a great deal of political
inequality that cannot be otherwise explained and are
popular in some circles, they have only recently received
some empirical verification – perhaps explaining why
ethnic identity politics are typically associated with sub-
ordinate groups.
Subordinate Groups
While dominant ethnic groups may use identity politics
as means of limiting the political power of others, their
attempt can inadvertently galvanize the ethnic identity
politics of subordinate groups. During the loosening of
control under Gorbachev’s perestroika in the Soviet Union,
for example, Uzbekistan and other republics sought an
unprecedented degree of independence, fueled by a bur-
geoning nationalism that was encouraged, ironically, by
Moscow’s earlier support of ethnic ‘self-determination’.
This sort of oppositional identity politics involves center-
ing a social movement around connections to a specific
category of people and what is perceived to be their
common political agenda. In 1996 Anner wrote, ‘‘The
premise of (subordinate) identity politics is that all mem-
bers of the group have more in common than the
members have with anyone outside the group, that they
are oppressed in the same way, and therefore that they all
belong on the same road to justice’’. In many cases, orga-
nized political movements are considered the best ‘road to
764 Ethnicity and Identity Politics
Political movements
Political movements are an important form of opposition
for subordinate ethnic groups. They typically involve the
mobilization of large numbers of people under an explicit
political platform or agenda centered around the group’s
ethnic identity and social experience. Political move-
ments have as their goal a change in the prevailing
political system and related social and economic arrange-
ments. This change usually involves some capitulation by
the dominant group(s) and is often pursued through legal
challenges to existing practices or laws, political lobbying
and leverage, and non-cooperation in the political or
economic sectors. How is it that identity with a subordi-
nate ethnic group may foster organized collective actions
in the form of a political movement? The sociological and
social psychological literatures suggest that subordinate
groups engage in political movements when they perceive
their disadvantage to be (1) shared, i.e., affecting the group
as a collective (2) illegitimate or unfair, and (3) change-
able through their political efforts.
First, the perception of a shared disadvantage is key to
collective political action. This perception involves the
sense that one is part of an oppressed collective and that
each group member’s experience is influenced by his or
her membership in the collective. The permeability of
group boundaries seriously affects group members’ per-
ceptions of a common fate. Studies reveal that a sense of
shared disadvantage is more likely if the boundary to an
advantaged group is perceived as closed. However, if the
boundary to the advantaged group is seen as permeable,
individual attempts at joining or ‘passing’ into the domi-
nant group are likely. Some suggest that the civil rights
movement of the 1960s in the United States was in part
spurred by the shared perception among Black Americans
that they were deprived as a group. In this case, both the
leaders of the movement and the mass media highlighted
the unequal social conditions that many group members
viewed as a threat to their collective well-being. This
recognition of a common oppression and shared fate
made collective political action seem necessary.
Research suggests that it is the combination of the per-
ceived deprivation of one’s group and increasing
expectations for one’s group that leads to discontent.
The theory of Relative Deprivation predicts that people
experience discontent only when they believe that their
current attainments do not match their expectations, par-
ticularly when they compare themselves to a group that
has more than their own group. Moreover, according to
optimal distinctiveness theory, membership in a minority
group fosters comparisons between the status of one’s own
group and that of other groups. This process may
heighten the experience of relative deprivation among
subordinate groups because members will emphasize
(1) the commonalities within their group and, (2) the
disparities between the dominant group and their own.
Although the recognition of group disadvantage may
be necessary for the development of a collective move-
ment, it is not sufficient. A subordinate group may, in fact,
believe that such inequities are legitimate. For example,
many social theorists suggest that dominant groups
develop ‘legitimating myths’ to justify the oppression of
others. The caste system in India and the companion
belief that people who are of a low caste warrant their
current status due to transgressions in a previous life and
the Protestant work ethic and the companion belief that
certain groups are worse off economically because they
are lazy are such examples. When the subordinate group
believes its status to be legitimate, there is little reason for
a collective political movement, and the hierarchy is
rarely challenged. Thus, political movements by subordi-
nate ethnic groups tend to rely on a belief that their
group’s disadvantage is unfair and undeserved.
Finally, some modicum of efficacy is necessary to
engage in what is often a long and difficult battle to
have the group’s disadvantage recognized and addressed.
For instance, during the Black Power Movement, the
Chicano Movement, and the Asian American Movement
in the United States, and in the anticolonial movements in
Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the people most heavily
involved in collective political action were not those most
deprived economically or politically. It was for the most
part the college-educated and middle-class members of
these ethnic groups that started the movements and set
their agendas. People who feel that they have the requisite
resources are likely to participate in organized political
movements and are likely to believe that political activity
will result in positive change.
Violent or Peaceful?
Much of Western scholarship on the conflict motivated
by ethnic identity politics has been influenced by
Hegel’s dialectical perspective. Many analysts believe
that Hegel saw such conflict as inherently violent, as
he argued that each of the involved parties ‘‘aims at the
destruction and death of the other.’’ While it is unclear
whether the destruction Hegel speaks of is actual or
metaphorical, the place of violence in ethnic identity
politics is an issue of great concern. The main preoccu-
pation in this area has been how and why ethnic groups
come to see violence as a viable form of political conflict,
and why they engage in violence rather than in electoral
or other non-violent forms of collective activity encom-
passed in political movements. Before proceeding,
however, it may be useful to distinguish between violent
actions that are planned as part of a political agenda or
tied to explicit political demands, and a more ‘sponta-
neous’ violence that responds to political (or politicized)
events. Violence based on political agendas includes
terrorism, civil war, and rebellions, while event-based
Ethnicity and Identity Politics 765
violence more closely describes riots and lynchings. The
latter form of violence is easily distinguished from
the sort of organized political movements discussed in
the preceding section. Unlike participants in prolonged
social movements, those who engage in event-based
violence – such as the urban unrest that occurred in
Los Angeles, US or Brixton, England in response to
perceptions of police brutality – tend to be the most
isolated and disenfranchised of their group. While parti-
cipants may see such actions as sending a political
message, they are rarely regarded as a political strategy
effecting change. Agenda-based violence, on the other
hand, is quite different.
The preceding section on political movements sug-
gested that organized political activity by subordinate
ethnic groups tends to be based on the perception that
there is an illegitimate inequality between groups that can
be changed by organized political activity. Agenda-based
violence by such groups is a form of political activity
encouraged by the belief that efforts in the political
realm alone will not produce positive change. Such vio-
lence is often seen as viable when subordinate ethnic
groups have little or no faith in the ability of the political
or judicial systems to address their grievances because
they view these systems as contributing to their oppres-
sion. In such cases, subordinate ethnic groups see violent
opposition to the status quo as a legitimate form of resis-
tance. Frantz Fanon, an influential theorist who analyzed
twentieth-century sociopolitical movements in the
United States, Asia, the Caribbean, and Algeria and
other parts of Africa, argued that oppression compelled
people to use violence to combat the violence inherent in
systems of subordination. Fanon describes the ways in
which the institutionalized violence used by dominant
groups to maintain their position (e.g., poverty, lynching,
police brutality) could become banal, and thereby taken-
for-granted by many within the society. According to
Fanon, in a dialectical battle for position, violent opposi-
tion by subordinate ethnic groups is simply engaging in
conflict at the appropriate level. Following Hegel, Fanon
sees the subordinate group’s position as a direct result of
another group’s identification as a dominant group. Thus,
the only alternative is for the subordinate group to dis-
place the group responsible for its low position and to
replace it, thereby becoming dominant.
There are, of course, other perspectives on the legiti-
macy and efficacy of violence in ethnic conflict. For
example, nonviolent approaches to social change are
most often defined according to those advocated by
Mohandas K. Gandhi (regarding Indian independence
from Britain and political enfranchisement for Indians in
South Africa) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (regarding
Black Americans and other disenfranchised groups in
the US). While Gandhi and King shared a commitment
to nonviolent protest rooted in their respective spiritual
beliefs, they also shared a more pragmatic belief that
violent opposition by subordinates only invites a violent
response from the dominant group. From their perspec-
tive, organized political violence only works to reinforce
and reinvigorate unjust and often brutal domination. For
both Gandhi and King, the only way to achieve a lasting
social justice free of violence by either dominants or
subordinates is to change the very nature of group iden-
tity through a ‘politics of conversion’. Thus, Gandhi
argued that the oppressed can
free ourselves of the unjust rule of the Government by
defying the unjust rule and accepting the punishments
that go with it [...]. When we set its fears at rest, when we
do not desire to make armed assaults on administrators,
nor to unseat them from power, but only to get rid of their
injustice, they will at once be subdued to our will.
Unlike Fanon, Gandhi clearly separates the system of
domination from the group that dominates. This allows
him to believe that the dominant group can recognize
inequality in the system and be moved to reform it and
themselves. Thus, the nonviolent approach to political
activity does not endorse the Hegelian view that identity
is achieved only through a bitter and often violent conflict
between groups brought about by competition for dom-
inance. Ultimately, it is a group’s assumptions about the
relationship between identity, be it dominant or subordi-
nate, and conflict that determines the place of violence in
the widely divergent political courses charted by
Gandhi/King and Fanon.
Identity politics based in ethnic identification may be
especially conflictual and sometimes violent. In contrast
to the popular view, this is not because ethnic identity
politics are practiced solely by minority or subordinate
groups who thirst for power and resources. Groups of
majority or minority, dominant or subordinate, status
can utilize the ethnic identity of their constituents to
raise political consciousness, organize political activity,
and make claims for social, economic, and other resources.
Given the broad definition of ethnicity, its role in the
formation of modern nation-states, and the psychosocial
reality and possible benefits of ethnic identification, all
politics today may be, to some extent, ethnic identity
politics. Therefore, the conflict and violence often asso-
ciated with ethnic identity politics has more to do with
the conflict associated with ethnic group identity and the
political process than with ethnicity itself. Both ethnic
identity and political power can be achieved through
intergroup conflict in search of dominance. Ethnic iden-
tity politics can thus be seen as a dialectical struggle for
766 Ethnicity and Identity Politics
power between groups, with each using ethnic identity as
a means toward this end. Of course, such uses of ethnic
identity would have little success if ethnic identification
did not resonate with people and perform important
psychosocial functions for them.
In the popular view, ethnic identity and related poli-
tics are seen as inherently divisive and conflictual.
Paradoxically, however, identity politics is both unifying
and divisive: while people are unified within a particular
ethnic group, they simultaneously identify other groups
as competitors or threats to their political aims. The
power of identity politics is often dependent upon the
mass appeal of the identity that the political activity is
centered around. In Britain, for example, immigrants from
the many former British colonies in the Caribbean formed
‘Afro-Caribbean’ or ‘West Indian’ political and social
groups to address their shared perceptions of discrimina-
tion and cultural chauvinism. Thus, appeals to local or
national authorities could be made in the name of the
collective West Indian minority rather than separately in
the name of those from Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, or
Similarly, ‘Asian’ organizations were formed in Britain
to address the shared social position of the many disparate
immigrant groups from the Indian subcontinent.
Identification as ‘Asian’ in Britain brought together a
wide array of people who differed in nationality, religion,
caste, region, class, gender, and numerous other forms of
social difference. Their identification as Asian, as opposed
to Punjabi, Pakistani, or Muslim for example, allowed
them to form a larger collective based on their shared
status as an identifiable minority in British society. In
some cases, Afro-Caribbeans and South Asians joined to
form ‘Black’ caucuses – as in the British Parliament –
based on their shared subordinate status. This allowed
an even larger body of people and stronger political
force to be mobilized around issues seen as common to
the participants.
Thus, framing a movement around subordination,
rather than a fairly narrow ethnic identity, can foster
cross-ethnic coalitions that draw on a wider base of sup-
port. In many cases, the failure to form an overarching
identity and related political agenda has led to the splin-
tering of political movements. For example, there has
been a continual struggle in India, since gaining indepen-
dence from Britain in 1947, to balance national solidarity
with the competing claims of the various ethnic, religious,
and caste groups in the society. Attention to ethnic iden-
tity politics in these situations, and in others, allows an
examination of the ways in which social groups define
themselves, identify their interests, and pursue what they
see as the political aims relevant to their identity and
interests, all in the context of the social, economic, and
power relations between groups.
It is important to note that academic conceptualiza-
tions of ethnicity and identity politics remain contested.
As mentioned above among political scientists, instru-
mentalists believe that dominant groups use ethnicity to
their political benefit. However, the primordialist position
assumes that ethnicities and identities are given at birth,
unchangeable, and that differences between groups cause
conflict. In contrast, the constructivist position assumes
that identities are malleable and that differences do not
necessarily lead to conflict. Future scholarship may
uncover whether one perspective is more valid and in
which contexts.
In addition, certain sociological theories view identity
politics as problematic and contest the nature and efficacy
of identity politics. For example, Marxist theories often
dismiss identity politics as a contemporary opiate of the
people and obfuscation of the real issues of class inequal-
ity. However, Bernstein counters by stating that these
theories often ignore that people have intersecting iden-
tities and that ethnicity and class often correlate in
meaningful ways. As another example, social constructi-
vist theories generally implicate identity politics in
reifying arbitrary distinctions between groups based
upon fictional concepts of race/ethnicity. However,
Bernstein counters that essentialism may be used strate-
gically. Moreover, we add that while the construction of
ethnic categories may often be arbitrary, the conse-
quences of those categories may be felt materially,
economically, occupationally, and in various other ways.
As mentioned above, Bernstein argues that identity is
essential for political mobilization. Future work may
determine which of these perspectives is a better charac-
terization of the role of ethnicity in politics.
Globalization and the Future of Ethnic Identity
Scholars are growing increasingly concerned with the
future direction of ethnic identity politics. Much of this
effort has concentrated on the effects of the increasing
globalization brought about by rapidly advancing tech-
nology in travel, media, and communication. There are
two opposing views: one that sees the world getting smal-
ler and more homogenous through increased contact, and
another which sees the world as growing more and more
heterogeneous as we all come to know a greater variety of
people than ever before. Proponents of each view do not,
however, agree on what the consequences of the expected
change will be.
Increasing homogeneity
Among those who predict increasing cultural homogene-
ity as a result of globalization, some believe that divisive
identity politics will not survive the increased interde-
pendence brought about by a global culture. This view
Ethnicity and Identity Politics 767
sees ethnic identity politics and subsequent conflict and
violence as a thing of the past as identities rooted in local
ethnicities and nations fall away in favor of more global
identities based in individual freedom and purchasing
power. If the world becomes one very large market
where everything can be bought and sold, collective
identities may indeed provide very little cachet for indi-
vidual consumers. This ‘one world, one market’ scenario,
where the many diverse peoples of the world get past
their differences to share a common Internet software,
cola, or phone company, appears in an increasing number
of advertisements by multinational companies and repre-
sents one way in which (market) globalization may diffuse
ethnic identity politics and thereby reduce the conflict
and violence associated with it.
Not all observers agree, however, that ethnic identity
politics will decline with the increased homogeneity
expected from globalization. A second perspective pre-
dicts that increased homogeneity will undermine
subordinate ethnic identity politics while quietly promot-
ing dominant ethnic identity politics. Here, there is
concern about the spread of an economic, political, and
social culture that, while calling itself ‘global’, is actually
rooted in mainstream US and Western European cultures
and values. Globalization is seen as a new kind of nation-
alist imperialism without frontiers, beamed into every
home across the world and packed into every consumer
Sociologist Howard Winant warns against the possibi-
lity that advancing globalization is establishing a new
form of dominant identity politics based upon a racialized
global hegemony of North over South. He views opposi-
tional ethnic and national identity politics as a necessary
response to this trend – a response that can be aided by an
alternative use of media and communication technology.
In Australia, for example, a number of Aboriginal groups
have used local radio and television broadcasting to rein-
vigorate interest, especially among the young, in their
language, culture, and politics. Here local media is used
by subordinate groups to provide an alternative to
national and global media.
Increasing heterogeneity
There are also those who believe that globalization will
serve to highlight greater cultural heterogeneity; however,
they disagree about the potential benefits and costs of this
change. Some find troubling the increasing level of cultural
diversity made apparent by increased contact, as each eth-
nic group may be encouraged to enter into competition
with every other to secure an increasingly scarce political
power. Here, increased contact is expected to cause
increased conflict. Others see globalization as making the
technology of media and communication available to a
wide variety of ethnic groups who can each use it to develop
their culture, language, and politics. Globalization can in
this way lead to greater equality and pluralism by promot-
ing cross-group connections through increased mutual
Clearly, the future direction of ethnic identity politics,
and its relation to globalization, remains an open question.
Unfortunately, the dialectical approach to ethnic identity
politics does not offer a prediction as to which future is
most likely. It does, however, suggest that the conse-
quences of globalization and advancing technology will
be determined by the way in which ethnic groups use
them in their quest for identity. If one group uses globa-
lization and technology to advance a claim of superiority
over another group, this will most likely result in a coun-
ter claim, perhaps through the use of parallel tools, by
those so subordinated. The dialectical circle of conflict
and violence will simply turn on, perhaps at a faster pace.
The promise in globalization and advanced technology
lies in its potential as a means by which equality can be
established and maintained.
See also: Colonialism and Imperialism; Cultural
Anthropology Studies of Conflict; Ethnic Conflicts and
Further Reading
Anner, J. (ed.) (1996). Beyond identity politics: Emerging social justice
movements in communities of color. Boston, MA: South End Press.
Balibar, E. and Wallerstein, I. (eds.) (1991). Race nation, class:
Ambiguous identities. London, UK: Verso.
Bernstein, M. (2005). Identity politics. Annual Review of Sociology
31, 47–71.
Bremnar, I. and Taras, R. (1993). Nation and politics in the Soviet
successor states. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bulhan, H. A. (1985). Frantz Fanon and the psychology of oppression.
New York, NY: Plenum.
Calhoun, C. (ed.) (1994). Social theory and the politics of identity.
Cambridge: Blackwell.
Cerulo, K. A. (1997). Identity construction: New issues, new directions.
Annual Review of Sociology 23, 385–409.
Fanon, F. (1967). Black skin, white masks. New York, NY: Grove
Hale, C. R. (1997). Cultural politics of identity in Latin America. Annual
Review of Anthropology 26, 567–590.
Hutchinson, J. and Smith, A. D. (1996). Ethnicity. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Layton-Henry, Z. (1984). The politics of race in Britain. London: Allen
and Unwin.
Pichardo, N. A. (1997). New social movements: A critical review. Annual
Review of Sociology 23, 411–430.
Rajchman, J. (ed.) (1995). The identity in question.New York, NY:
London: Routledge.
Sampson, E. E. (1993). Identity politics: Challenges to psychology’s
understanding. American Psychologist 48(12), 1219–1230.
Tajfel, H. and Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup
behavior. In Worchel, S. and Austin, W. G. (eds.) Psychology of
intergroup relations, 2nd edn., pp. 7–24. Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall.
Winant, H. (1994). Racial conditions: Politics, theory, comparisons.
Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota.
768 Ethnicity and Identity Politics
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... 126). Leach, Brown and Worden (2008) argue that Ethnic identity "has at least four psychosocial functions for group members: (1) providing self-esteem; (2) bestowing social status; (3) supplying existential security and knowledge; and (4) granting social protection" (p.763). Modernisation may have unleashed ethnic consciousness which in turn may trigger claims to recognition (Brass,1991); not only "demands for equal recognition, which are unlikely to ever be completely fulfilled …. [but also demands for] recognition of oneself as superior to others" (Fukuyama, 2018, p.108). ...
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This dissertation starts with a theoretical discussion on the primordial, perennial, and constructivist approaches to the concept of ethnicity. It argues that ethnic politics is positively correlated with ethnic conflict through ethnic security dilemmas, amplifying grievances, and feeding on greed. Although ethnic diversity and polarisation may affect the degree of ethnic conflict, the key factor is the political structure. Ethnic federalism and ethnic parties are structural elements that feed ethnic conflict. Since 1991, Ethiopian politics has been highly ethnicised; ethnic parties flourished, an ethnic federal system has been implemented. The 1995 constitution which exists to date institutionalised ethnic politics in Ethiopia. The implications have been massive internal displacements, the proliferation of ethnicity in every aspect of life, further disintegration due to the emergence of new ethnic groups, increasing rivalry between regional states, ethnic voting, and polarised cities. The dissertation provides some recommendations to the government of Ethiopia. Keywords: ethnicity, ethnic politics, ethnic conflict, ethnic federalism, ethnic parties, Ethiopia.
... Several studies have examined immigrant's identities (e.g., ethnic identity) and the challenges of acculturation within various domains such as physical education and achievement (Kouli & Papaioannou, 2009), economics/labor market (Constant, 2014), general population (Kosic, 2004), and politics (Leach et al., 2008); however, recently, there has been growing interest among organizational researchers in the relationship between acculturation strategies and organizational outcomes of immigrant employees (Gürlek, 2021;Hajro et al., 2019;Hommey et al., 2020;Lu et al., 2011;Samnani et al., 2012). Although migration per se does not compromise the organizational outcomes of immigrant employees, the process of acculturation which is, the psychological, social, and cultural changes that occur both at an individual and societal level when two cultural groups come into consistent contact, is considered a major life-changing event that presents various stressors that threaten the identity salience of an immigrant employee (Berry, 1997). ...
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There has been growing interest among organizational researchers in the relationship between acculturation strategies and organizational outcomes of immigrant employees. However, what is noticeably missing from the literature on acculturation strategies is how cultural values such as heritage cultural identity salience affect an immigrant employee’s acculturation strategy and subsequent work attitude and behaviors. Drawing on Berry’s (1997) acculturation strategy and framework, we examined heritage cultural identity salience, harmony enhancement, integration and marginalization acculturation strategy, turnover intention, and affective commitment among immigrant employees in the USA. In this time-lagged study, we found that heritage cultural identity salience was negatively related to marginalization and positively related to integration. Harmony enhancement significantly buffered the relationship between heritage cultural identity salience and marginalization and integration, respectively. Heritage cultural identity salience had significant indirect effects on affective commitment via marginalization and both affective commitment and turnover intention via integration. Lastly, results from the moderated mediated analysis showed that the indirect effect of heritage identity salience on affective commitment and turnover intention via integration was significantly different at varying levels of harmony enhancement. Our study affirms existing research on acculturation strategy and extends the literature by introducing harmony enhancement as a moderator. The use of Berry’s (1997) framework and the results of this study provide useful insights into the inclusion and retention of immigrant employees in the US workforce. Practical implications, as well as theoretical contributions, are discussed.
... Such methods benefit from an action-oriented approach (Ellsworth, 1989;Githens, 2012a). Action-oriented approaches help avoid the tendency of some diversity awareness initiatives in which consciously or unconsciously "diverse individuals" are singled out to educate members of the majority (Ellsworth, 1989), which sometimes instill guilt in participants, which does nothing to change real-world conditions (Brown, 1996). On the contrary, organizations can embed diversity work into existing work groups to foster growth and learning while the groups set their own goals, engage in authentic dialogue about group dynamics, and foster collaboration and trust (Choi & Ruona, 2010). ...
Diversity resistance is the dynamic interplay of individual and collective behaviors, with individual resistance rooted in unconscious motivation and organizational resistance rooted in the collective behavior of individuals. The purpose of this article is to enrich understanding of the forms of diversity resistance and introduce literature which may help move individuals and organizations to more equitable and integrative norms. We present a continuum of diversity resistance and integration in organizations to help human resource development (HRD) researchers and professionals consider how resistance to diversity can be reduced in leading to the full integration of employees. The continuum consists of (a) Resistance, (b) Discrimination Prevention, (c) Access and Legitimacy, (d) Inclusion, and (e) Integration and Learning. A psychological perspective is presented on resistance for HRD professionals helping leaders to facilitate diversity-related change.
... Several recent studies suggest such differences. For instance, adopting Berry's (1984) cultural relations model, Dovidio et al. (2008) report several studies that show that majority members usually prefer a one-group model (assimilationist), whereas minority members hold a more pluralistic integration representation of that category (see also Leach, Brown, & Worden, 2008). One could speculate that complex representations may only have the potential to change intergroup relations if they are consensually shared by both, the higher and the lower status group. ...
Based on the premise that groups' social standing and regard depend on their prototypicality for superordinate categories, minorities can be understood to suffer from the fact that they are considered as less prototypical than majorities. Previous research has shown that complex (vs. simple) representations of superordinate categories can reduce majority members' tendency to perceive their in-group as more prototypical than the out-group. The current research tested whether such complex representations also increase minorities' own perceived relative in-group prototypicality (RIP), leading to more balanced prototypicality judgments from both majorities and minorities. In Study 1 (N = 76), an experiment with two artificial groups of unequal status, a complex representation of a superordinate category increased the comparatively low RIP of the lower status subgroup. Consistently, in Study 2 (N = 192), a correlational study with natural groups, the relation between perceived complexity of the superordinate category and RIP was positive for members of the lower status group but negative for members of the higher status comparison group. In Study 3 (N = 160), an experiment with natural groups, a more complex representation of the superordinate category led lower and higher status groups to perceive greater equality in terms of relative prototypicality not only for a positive but also for a negatively valued superordinate category. These results have important implications for the understanding of social change: As superordinate identity complexity implies that included subgroups are more equally prototypical, it offers a normative alternative that helps minorities to challenge asymmetric status relations vis-à-vis majorities, but also promotes hope that majorities show bipartisanship in supporting such social change.
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Reading Gautam Malkani’s debut novel Londonstani, this article explores questions of place, identity, and ethnicity with a focus on the (in)adequacy of (in)authenticity and multiculturalism. I argue that, even if, on the surface, the concentration of South Asian immigrants in Hounslow may reflect ethnic segregationand support the critique of the end, or failure, of multiculturalism, if read in depth, through the portrayal of the diversity of subcultures, the nuances of South Asian diasporic identity, and the rudeboys’ use of hybrid language in the ethnic enclave, Malkani’s novel challenges the supposed “failure” of “multiculturalism” as a policy based simply on ethnicity identity politics. More importantly, the novel redefines multiculturalism and points out that, in contemporary London and Britain, even in an ethnic enclave, it is evidently a common, everyday practice for people to identify and interact with others across the borders of ethnicity, culture, and nationality.
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Yet another long, hot summer in 2020 brought to the broader consciousness—in the US and well beyond—what Black folks have known for centuries about the ways in which racial hegemony relies on the acute violence of a police knee on a prone neck and the chronic violence of prisons, prefects, and (public housing) projects (for discussions, see Bulhan 1985; Omi and Winant 2014; Sidanius and Pratto 1999). In their commentary, AK Thompson makes too many important points for us to address in this brief commentary. Thus, as research psychologists with a transdisciplinary social-behavioral approach to protest, resistance, and societal change, we focus on what we see as Thompson’s most psychologically oriented theses: II, III, V, and VI. In sum, we see Thompson as arguing that social movements necessarily include a (more or less latent) threat of violence (II) and that this violence is noticed and suppressed because it challenges (III) the logic (economic, political, and cultural), the ethics, and the formalization (legal, political, and institutional) of racial hegemony (V). In addition, we take Thompson to argue that Black freedom struggles are, and have always been, flexible in means and aims (VI), adjusting strategically to the multifaceted dynamics of oppression and resistance.
Education emancipates a society, and this is also true in Sarawak for where it has an important role in maintaining the core values of Sarawak Malay identity politics. Education, and how it is related to the political consciousness of the Sarawak Malay, shall be the main subject of this research. The purpose of this study is to analyse the role and importance of education in maintaining the core values in Sarawak Malays identity politics. This study was conducted through library research and other secondary sources as it tries to explore the elements of education and the social and political change of the Sarawak Malays. Education not only provided the access to social mobility and socio-political awareness of the Sarawak Malays, but it also enhanced the politics of identity of Sarawak Malays through the inculcation of values based on Islam and the local context of Malayness (Kemelayuaan).
The Rohingya of Myanmar have been experiencing a range of human rights violations including state-sponsored genocide and ethnic cleansing. Many argue that the genesis of the crisis lies in the denial of their legal status and granting citizenship would offer a solution. This article argues that apart from such legal dynamics, significant theoretical aspects of this crisis require analysis. From a theoretical perspective, the Rohingya’s identity as a minority is important as it leads to their persecution. This article demonstrates that their minority identity has been (re)constructed over time. Four factors such as (i) development of Burmese nationalism; (ii) politicisation of identity for Burmese majority; (iii) taking away of the citizenship of Rohingya; and (iv) ethnic divisions in Myanmar society have played significant roles in (re)constructing their identity as a minority. They give rise to a type of citizenship in Myanmar, which fails to include the religious minority within its ambit.
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We used multivariate methods to explore changes in benthic assemblage structure over 27 years (1977–2003) at four monitoring stations located along a salinity gradient in the upper San Francisco Estuary. Changes in benthic assemblage composition were assessed relative to hydrologic variability and to the presence of the high-impact invader Corbula amurensis in the estuary. We also explored the composition of benthic assemblages during a recent collapse of several pelagic populations in the upper estuary. Our results show that the Corbula invasion had both direct and indirect effects on the benthos in the estuary, causing significant changes in assemblage structure. We found no unprecedented patterns of benthic assemblage composition during the period of the Pelagic Organism Decline (2000–2003) in the upper estuary. Hydrologic variability was associated with significant changes in benthic assemblage composition at all locations. Benthic assemblage composition was more sensitive to mean annual salinity than other local physical conditions. That is, benthic assemblages were not geographically static, but shifted with salinity, moving down-estuary in years with high delta outflow, and up-estuary during years with low delta outflow, without strong fidelity to physical habitat attributes such as substrate composition or location in embayment vs. channel habitat. Organism abundance and species richness showed a bi-modal distribution along the salinity gradient, with lowest abundance and richness in the 5 to 8 psu range. We conclude that the continuity of benthic assemblages and community metrics along the salinity gradient is a powerful and necessary context for understanding historical variability in assemblage composition at geographically static monitoring stations.
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This review presents an overview of research on identity politics. First, I distinguish between various approaches to defining identity politics and the challenges presented by each approach. In the process, I show that these approaches reflect competing theoretical understandings of the relationship between experience, culture, identity, politics, and power. These debates raise theoretical issues that I address in the second section, including (a) how to understand the relationship between personal experience and political stance, (b) why status identities are understood and/or portrayed as essentialist or socially constructed, (c) the strategic dilemmas activists face when the identities around which a movement is organized are also the basis for oppression, (d) when to attribute certain movement outcomes to status identities, and (e) how to link collective action to specific notions of power to help explain the cultural and political goals at which identity politics is aimed. I conclude by recommending...
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Discussions of New Social Movements have sought to explain the apparent shift in the forms of contemporary social movements in Western nations by linking it to the rise of a postmodern world. However, the central propositions of the NSM paradigm have not been critically analyzed in terms of its concepts or the evidence. This review provides a critical analysis of the NSM thesis, finding that the central propositions are not defensible as a theory or a paradigm.
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▪ Abstract The phrase “identity politics” has come to encapsulate a wide diversity of oppositional movements in contemporary Latin America, marking a transition away from the previous moment of unified, “national-popular” projects. This review takes a dual approach to the literature emerging from that transition, focusing on changes in both the objects of study and the analysts' lens. Four questions drive this inquiry: When did the moment of identity politics arise? What accounts for the shift? How to characterize its contents? What consequences follow for the people involved? Past answers to such questions often have tended to fall into polarized materialist and discursive theoretical camps. In contrast, this review emphasizes emergent scholarship that takes insights from both while refusing the dichotomy, and assigning renewed importance to empirically grounded and politically engaged research.
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The study of identity forms a critical cornerstone within modern sociological thought. Introduced by the works of Cooley and Mead, identity studies have evolved and grown central to current sociological discourse. Microsociological perspectives dominated work published through the 1970s. Sociologists focused primarily on the formation of the "me," exploring the ways in which interpersonal interactions mold an individual's sense of self. Recent literature constitutes an antithesis to such concerns. Many works refocus attention from the individual to the collective; others prioritize discourse over the systematic scrutiny of behavior; some researchers approach identity as a source of mobilization rather than a product of it; and the analysis of virtual identities now competes with research on identities established in the copresent world. This essay explores all such agenda as raised in key works published since 1980. I close with a look toward the future, suggesting trajectories aimed at synthesizing traditional and current concerns.
A variety of collective movements (including women, gay males and lesbians, African Americans, and members of the 3rd world), in arguing that members have been denied their own voice in establishing the conditions of their lives and in determining their own identity and subjectivity, pose a serious challenge to psychology's suitability as a discipline capable of responding to the full diversity of human nature. This article explores these claims on behalf of voice, develops a discursive framework as an alternative to current psychological analysis, and suggests how that framework would require a transformation in current psychological theory, research, and practice. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)