It is hard to avoid seeing ethnicity, race, or nationality wherever one looks. Differences in education, income, and health are often patterned along ethnic or racial lines. But how do we disentangle discrimmation and preferences for certain groups from the everyday working of labor markets and educational institutions or privileging family members or those with similar educational backgrounds? Drawing on a boundary-making perspective first championed by
anthropologist Fredrick Barth, Andreas Wimmer introduces a new comparative theory of ethnicity. It explains precisely how and why ethnicity matters in certain societies and contexts but not in others, and why it is sometimes associated with inequality and exclusion, with political and public debate, with
closely-held identity, while in other cases ethnicity, race and nationhood do not structure the allocation of resources, invite little political passion, and represent secondary aspects of individual identity. Wimmer argues that when ethnic and racial differences matter they matter because of institutional incentives, differences in power, and pre-existing social networks.
Wimmer first provides a broad overview of different ethnic configurations around the world, outlines the new theory, and proposes a set of research designs based on non-ethnic units of observation. Next, he draws on these methods to demonstrate how the utility of the boundary-making approach through a qualitative study of immigrant ethnicity in Switzerland, a network analysis of racial and ethnic boundaries of U.S. college students on Facebook, and a statistical analysis of cultural values in
the European Union.
Andreas Wimmer is Professor of Sociology and Faculty Associate of Politics at Princeton University. His research is aimed at understanding the dynamics of nation-state formation, ethnic boundary making and political conflict from a comparative perspective. He is author of Nationalist Exclusion and Ethnic Conflicts: Shadows of Modernity (Cambridge, 2002) and Waves of War: Nationalism and Ethnic Politics in the Modern World (Cambridge 2012) and his articles have been published by the American Journal of Sociology, the American Sociological Review, World Politics, Sociological Theory and Ethnic and Racial Studies, among others. Professor Wimmer's work has won best article awards from the Comparative Historical, Political, Cultural, and Theory sections of the American Sociological Association as well as the Thyssen Prize for Best Article in the Social Sciences.
Introduction ; 1. Herder's Heritage ; 2. Strategies and Means ; 3. Conflict and Consensus ; 4. Categorization struggles ; 5. Network Boundaries ; 6. Culture and Closure ; Conclusions ; Acknowledgments ; Notes ; Bibliography ; Index