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Constructing Ethnicity: Creating and Recreating Ethnic Identity and Culture

Joane Nagel
Social Problems
Vol. 41, No. 1, Special Issue on Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity in America (Feb., 1994), pp. 152-176
DOI: 10.2307/3096847
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3096847
Page Count: 25
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Constructing Ethnicity: Creating and Recreating Ethnic Identity and Culture
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Abstract

Identity and culture are two of the basic building blocks of ethnicity. Through the construction of identity and culture, individuals and groups attempt to address the problematics of ethnic boundaries and meaning. Ethnicity is best understood as a dynamic, constantly evolving property of both individual identity and group organization. The construction of ethnic identity and culture is the result of both structure and agency-a dialectic played out by ethnic groups and the larger society. Ethnicity is the product of actions undertaken by ethnic groups as they shape and reshape their self-definition and culture; however, ethnicity is also constructed by external social, economic, and political processes and actors as they shape and reshape ethnic categories and definitions. This paper specifies several ways ethnic identity and culture are created and recreated in modern societies. Particular attention is paid to processes of ethnic identity formation and transformation, and to the purposes served by the production of culture-namely, the creation of collective meaning, the construction of community through mythology and history, and the creation of symbolic bases for ethnic mobilization.

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