The categories of ethnicity, homogeneity and the nation partially contradict each other, but they also overlap. In order to examine this tension, this article will consider these terms in the context of the question that mediates their
A Relationship of Tension
Ring composition and conflict resolution
Ethnicity—once the preserve of anthropologists and folklorists studying disappearing tribal and peasant cultures—has become an important element in the models and explanations of a broader community of social scientists seeking to comprehend post-Cold War social disorder. But is ethnicity equivalent to variables such as resource competition or poverty? Ethnicity can be viewed as an epiphenomenon. The argument has major consequences for the way ethnic conflicts are analyzed and resolved. The article considers neo-Durkheimian conceptual tools for uncovering mechanisms generative of ethnic epiphenomena, and explores a neo-Durkheimian approach to conflict resolution. Specifically, Mary Douglas's ideas on ring composition are extended to include the ethnomusicological project of the Hungarian composer Béla Bartók, and then applied to epiphenomena emerging from the protracted civil conflict in the West African country of Sierra Leone.
Commodity fetishism and symbolic re‐creation of objects among the Gabor Roma (Romania)
The study deals with the prestige economy of a Transylvanian Roma ethnic subgroup known as the Gabors. It highlights how these Roma construct prestige items and symbols of ethnic identity by de‐ and re‐contextualisation, that is, by commodity fetishism and symbolic re‐creation of silver beakers and tankards purchased from non‐Roma antique dealers, auction houses, museums etc. Focusing on a transitional period of the ‘social history’ of these objects, it analyses how the Gabors attach to them a new cultural identity (elite register of consumption of material goods) and new social identities (symbols of ethnic and patrilineal identity). These processes of ‘symbolic alchemy’ of objects play a significant role in the construction and materialisation of ethnic identity among the Gabors.
Ambiguity and excess in “postethnic” Rwanda
Following the 1994 genocide, the government of Rwanda embarked on a “deethnicization” campaign to outlaw Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa labels and replace them with a pan-Rwandan national identity. Since then, to use ethnic labels means risking accusations of “divisionism” or perpetuating ethnic schisms. Based on one year of ethnographic fieldwork in the university town of Butare, I argue that the absence of ethnic labels produces practical interpretive problems for Rwandans because of the excess of possible ways of interpreting what people mean when they evaluate each other's conduct in everyday talk. I trace the historical entanglement of ethnicity with class, rural/urban, occupational, and moral distinctions such that the content of ethnic stereotypes can be evoked even without ethnic labels. In so doing, I aim to enrich understandings of both the power and danger inherent in the ambiguous place of ethnicity in Rwanda's “postethnic” moment.
Ephraim Yuchtman-Yaar, Yasmin Alkalay, and Tom Aival
Previous studies have found that religious identity and ethnicity have been the most salient socio-demographic variables affecting the political attitudes 3 and voting preferences of the Israeli-Jewish electorate. Specifically, the religious and the
The politics of citizenship and multi-culturalism in Peninsular Malaysia—the case of Penang
The present article analyzes how, after its independence in 1957, Malaysia has been able to manage the difficult coexistence among its three numerically most relevant ethnic groups (Malay, Chinese and Indian). This complex situation, a legacy of the British colonial-like plural society, has been governed via a specific model of multi-racial citizenship, which is significantly unlike the Western European ones in which, as a rule, the equivalence between nationality and citizenship predominates. Starting from the specific example of Penang in Peninsular Malaysia, the article intends to highlight two points. Firstly, that citizenship must be perceived as an agonistic process with competition, tensions and conflicts as well as permanent negotiations. Secondly, that the Occidental agenda, based on liberal principles, can no longer be regarded as the only valid one. Therefore, believing that the Western type of citizenship could be a universalistic institution exportable anywhere is misleading. Consequently, citizenship ought to be analyzed instead as a 'concrete abstraction' that is set up in strict correlation with the specific historical contexts and with particular circumstances of a sociological nature, relative to the characteristics of each society.
This article proposes using the theoretical discussions of Deleuze and Guattari as a means of comprehending the various ways in which individuals speak about their ethnic identity. This is done through a case study of a state-run educational boarding school offered to subjects identified as 'ethnic' in Israel. The findings expose two ways of talking about ethnic identity: 'minor language' and 'major language'. What I term the 'major language of ethnicity' makes substantial use of state language and offers two hierarchical categories that serve as an archetype for classifying groups. The 'minor language of ethnicity', on the other hand, offers multiple local identifications and potential identity alternatives. The article suggests using dynamics at the foundation of these concepts to consider the position of the researcher and to expose existential 'lines of flight' and life inventions of subjects in everyday life.
Capture and Excess
Developing Deleuze and Guattari's concepts of territorialization and the apparatus of capture, this article explores the role that Sri Lankan Hindu temples have played in the formation of ethnicity and ethnic conflict. Analyzing three contemporary events, the article introduces ways in which many different Sri Lankans (Sinhalese and Tamil) interpret their country's predicament and seek to resolve or prolong it. The events also reveal how scholarship becomes entangled in ethnic nationalism. I then examine in greater detail a village in which temple construction was a critical feature of identity formation during the creation of Sri Lanka as a colonialist and capitalist bureaucratic space. Through this account, I argue that the formation of polarized ethnicity in Sri Lanka is the product of multiple refractive forces, of which temples are one, and not the end result of a singular colonialist bureaucratic agency.
This essay discusses anthropological approaches to the study of media interacting with contexts of ethnic and religious diversity. The main argument is that not only issues of access to and exclusion from public spheres are relevant for an understanding of media and pluralism. Background assumptions and ideologies about media technologies and their functioning also require more comparative analysis, as they impact public spheres and claims to authority and authenticity that ultimately produce and shape scenarios of ethnic and religious diversity. This additional dimension of diversity in the question of media and ethnic and religious pluralism is particularly apparent in crises of political and religious mediation. The latter often result in desires to bypass established forms of political and religious mediation that are in turn often projected on new media technologies.
Auto-ethnographical Reflections at the Jewish Museum Berlin
Victoria Bishop Kendzia
This article explores the issue of ethnic attributions versus options pertaining to Jewishness in Germany. The methodology is a combination of standard ethnographic fieldwork with Berlin-based high-school students before, during and after visits to the Jewish Museum Berlin (JMB) and auto-ethnography detailing and analysing my own experiences in and outside of the research sites. My goal is to illustrate particularities of interactions in sites like the JMB by contrasting the way in which Jewishness is handled in and outside of the standardised research situation. Further, the material points to continuities between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. My analysis aims to open up further, productive discussion on this point.