Sociology of Race and Ethnicity

To sociologists, race is a system of stratification based on physical differences (”phenotypes”) that are seen as essential and permanent. These differences may be real or they may be imagined. Though individuals can and do come to identify in racial terms, race is most important as a system of categorization which is externally imposed. The fact that race is imposed externally is the major difference between it and the concept of ethnicity.

The ancient Greek word ethnos referred to a group of people who lived together, sharing a common way of life. After kinship, ethnicity may be the most ubiquitous way of classifying and organizing human collectivities; it is ”the social organization of culture difference” (Barth 1969) and ”the cultural organization of social difference” (Geertz 1973). How the nuanced complexities of culture are socially organized into ethnicity is not, however, obvious or straightforward.

Accommodation

Accommodation was one of the four features of Robert Park and Ernest Burgess’s model of social interaction. Though the concept illustrated racial and ethnic social changes taking place in the USA and the rest of the world during the last half of the nineteenth century and the first two or three decades of the twentieth, […]

Assimilation

Assimilation is reemerging as a core concept for comprehending the long-run consequences of immigration, both for the immigrants and their descendants and for the society that receives them. This new phase could be described as a second life for a troubled concept. In its first life, assimilation was enthroned as the reigning idea in the […]

Authoritarian Personality

The authoritarian personality is a psychological syndrome of traits that correlates highly with outgroup prejudice. Three personality traits in particular characterize the syndrome: deference to authorities, aggression toward outgroups, and rigid adherence to cultural conventions. Thus, authoritarians hold a rigidly hierarchical view of the world. Nazi Germany inspired the first conceptualizations. The Frankfurt School, combining […]

Caste: Inequalities Past and Present

To categorize different forms of stratification systems sociologists most frequently examine the way resources such as wealth, power, and prestige are acquired in society. In some societies, such valued resources are acquired on the basis of achievement or merit. In others, these resources are accorded to individuals on the basis of ascribed, not achieved, characteristics. […]

Civil Rights Movement

The struggle for civil rights for African Americans is one which has spanned centuries. After emancipation from slavery and the Fourteenth Amendment which granted them citizenship, African Americans were still denied basic civil rights guaranteed by the US constitution. In the South, Jim Crow was a system of segregation that was institutionalized after the 1896 […]

Colonialism and Neocolonialism

Colonialism refers to the direct political control of a society and its people by a foreign ruling state. Essentially it is a political phenomenon. The ruling state monopolizes political power and keeps the subordinated society and its people in a legally inferior position. But colonialism has had significant cultural, social, and economic correlates and ramifications. […]

Decolonization

Decolonization typically refers to a shift in a society’s political status from colony to autonomous state or independent nation. It can also refer to a shift from colonial status to full incorporation into the dominant polity such that it is no longer subordinate to the latter. While decolonization has occurred in many different places and […]

Diaspora

The term ”diaspora” originates from the Greek ”dia” (over) and ”speiro” (to sow). The Greeks understood diaspora as migration and colonization of new lands. In modern parlance the term diaspora usually refers to ethnic groups whose sizeable parts have lived outside their country of origin for at least several generations, while maintaining some ties (even […]

Discrimination

Discrimination refers to the differential, and often unequal, treatment of people who have been either formally or informally grouped into a particular class of persons. There are many forms of discrimination that are specified according to the ways in which particular groups are identified, including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, class, age, disability, […]

Diversity

When applied to social phenomena, the term ”diversity” generally refers to the distribution of units of analysis (e.g., people, students, families) in a specific social environment (e.g., workplace, classroom, nation-state) along a dimension (e.g., mother tongue, social class, political orientation). Measures of levels of diversity, such as the Index of Dissimilarity, usually define the maximum […]

Double Consciousness

When W. E. B. Du Bois introduced the concept of ”double consciousness” in his literary and autobiographical masterpiece, The Souls of Black Folk (1903), the idea of doubleness was already a major motif in the literary works of many notable authors. A restatement of the salient features of Du Bois’ views on double consciousness permits […]

Ethnic Groups

Ethnic groups are fundamental units of social organization which consist of members who define themselves by a sense of common historical origins that may also include religious beliefs, a distinct language or a shared culture. Max Weber provided one of the most important modern definitions of ethnic groups as ”human groups (other than kinship groups) […]

Ethnicity

The ancient Greek word ethnos referred to a group of people who lived together, sharing a common way of life. After kinship, ethnicity may be the most ubiquitous way of classifying and organizing human collectivities; it is ”the social organization of culture difference” (Barth 1969) and ”the cultural organization of social difference” (Geertz 1973). How […]

Immigration

Sociologists look at migration as a social phenomenon. Their research is focused not on individual immigrants but on immigrant populations and their characteristics, because the characteristics of immigrant flows and immigrant populations are essential for understanding migration processes and the reaction to these processes from the receiving societies. The volume of the migration flow, its […]

Indigenous Movements

Struggles for indigenous self-determination have become a major worldwide human rights movement. Throughout the Americas and in settler colonies such as Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand, as well as across the Pacific and in Asia and Africa and the Caribbean, indigenous peoples reject their treatment as disadvantaged citizens of settler states and instead demand to be […]

Indigenous Peoples

”Indigenous peoples” refers to those peoples who either live or have lived within the past several centuries in non-state societies, though now nearly all have been absorbed into state societies. For North America, we alternate among Native Americans, American Indians, native, or Indian. Many groups have reasserted their traditional names: Dine for Navajo, Ho-Chunk for […]

Orientalism

Orientalism is the study of the ”Orient” and its ”eastern” arts, languages, sciences, histories, faiths, cultures, and peoples by Christian theological experts, humanist scholars, and natural and social scientists since the 1500s. Orientalist writers consider the ”Orient” as consisting of societies geographically east of Christian Europe to be explored, acquired, and colonized for their raw […]

Outsider-Within

Patricia Hill Collins’s idea of the outsider-within has quickly become a classic in feminist theories. The term was originally used to describe the location of individuals who find themselves in the border space between groups: that is, who no longer have clear membership in any one group. Dissatisfied with this usage because of its resemblance […]

Passing

Passing is a process by which one’s racial, sexual, religious, cultural, ethnic, and/or national identity crosses over from one culture or community into another undetected. Though generations the term has come to be applicable to many diverse communities, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations (LGBT), as well as people of Muslim faith and/or […]

Prejudice

Prejudice is the judging of a person or idea, without prior knowledge of the person or idea, on the basis of some perceived group membership. Prejudice can be negative or positive. Some writers, in defining prejudice, stress an irrational component; others maintain that it is incorrect to do so because prejudice is often rooted in […]