Top-Rated Free Essay

Social Construction of "Race"

Topics: Race, Human, Anthropology, Ethnic group, Sociology / Pages: 2 (383 words) / Published: Jun 15th, 2008
Difference between race (biological) and ethnicity (cultural) – While the term ‘race’ emphasizes biological differences based on skin colour, ethnicity denotes the sense of belonging to a particular community whose members share common cultural traditions. Ethnicity isn't just a question of affiliation; it's also a question of choice. It's also a question of group membership. And it's usually associated with a geographic region.
A race is a “local geographic or global human population distinguished as a more or less distinct group by genetically transmitted physical characteristics.”

The most powerful argument about the differentiation between race and ethnicity is that race becomes institutionalized in a way that has profound social consequences on the members of different groups.
- Race is primarily unitary.
- You can only have one race, but you are able to claim multiple ethnic affiliations.
- You have no control over your race; it's how you're perceived by others. E.g Chinese growing up Australian could claim to be ethnically Australian however her race is still Chinese.
Social construction - A social construction or social construct is any phenomenon "invented" or "constructed" by participants in a particular culture or society, existing because people agree to behave as if it exists or follow certain conventional rules. One example of a social construct is social status.
Research studies have challenged the idea of race by presenting evidence that the scientific basis for racial difference rests on shaky ground. A few studies found that "within group" differences (genetic variations within same-race groups) were more significant than those found between groups representing different races, and thus concluded that there is truly only one race, the human race.

The idea that race is a social construct can be more easily understood when we consider the way in which we classify individuals of mixed heritage.
Since the 1960s, some anthropologists and teachers of anthropology have re-conceived "race" as a cultural category or social construct, in other words, as a particular way that some people have of talking about themselves and others. As such it cannot be a useful analytical concept; rather, the use of the term "race" itself must be analyzed. Moreover, they argue that biology will not explain why or how people use the idea of race: history and social relationships will.

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