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Ethnic Boundary MakingInstitutions, Power, Networks$
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Andreas Wimmer

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199927371

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199927371.001.0001

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Conflict and Consensus

Conflict and Consensus

(p.79) 4 Conflict and Consensus
Ethnic Boundary Making

Andreas Wimmer

Oxford University Press

Primordialist and constructivist authors have debated the nature of ethnicity “as such” and therefore failed to explain why its characteristics vary so dramatically across cases, displaying different degrees of social closure, political salience, cultural distinctiveness and historical stability. This chapter introduces a multi-level process theory to understand how these characteristics are generated and transformed over time. The theory assumes that ethnic boundaries are the outcome of the classificatory struggles and negotiations between actors situated in a social field. Three characteristics of a field—the institutional order, distribution of power and political networks—determine which actors will adopt which strategy of ethnic boundary making. The chapter then discusses under which conditions a shared understanding of the location and meaning of these boundaries will emerge. The nature of this consensus explains degrees of closure, salience, cultural differentiation and stability of an ethnic boundary. A final section identifies endogenous and exogenous mechanisms of change.

Keywords:   boundary making, social theory, cultural theory, identity, institutions, social networks, symbolic boundaries, social boundaries, social closure, politicization, cultural difference, ethnicity

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