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Ethnicity without Groups

Ethnicity without Groups

Rogers Brubaker

ISBN 9780674022317

Publication date: 09/01/2006

Despite a quarter-century of constructivist theorizing in the social sciences and humanities, ethnic groups continue to be conceived as entities and cast as actors. Journalists, policymakers, and researchers routinely frame accounts of ethnic, racial, and national conflict as the struggles of internally homogeneous, externally bounded ethnic groups, races, and nations. In doing so, they unwittingly adopt the language of participants in such struggles, and contribute to the reification of ethnic groups.

In this timely and provocative volume, Rogers Brubaker—well known for his work on immigration, citizenship, and nationalism—challenges this pervasive and commonsense “groupism.” But he does not simply revert to standard constructivist tropes about the fluidity and multiplicity of identity. Once a bracing challenge to conventional wisdom, constructivism has grown complacent, even cliched. That ethnicity is constructed is commonplace; this volume provides new insights into how it is constructed. By shifting the analytical focus from identity to identifications, from groups as entities to group-making projects, from shared culture to categorization, from substance to process, Brubaker shows that ethnicity, race, and nation are not things in the world but perspectives on the world: ways of seeing, interpreting, and representing the social world.


  • The book contains much that is interesting and novel: an illuminating exploration of how research in cognitive psychology can inform our understanding of ethno-national identity; an essay on the return of a soft version of assimilation as a desideratum for immigrants in the West; a trenchant critique of the use of the ethnic/civic distinction in nationalist studies; a rich analysis of how the 1848 revolutions were commemorated in 1998 in Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia; and a sensible review of the literature on nationalist and ethnic violence. The analysis is lucid and well written throughout and makes for a worthwhile collection… Brubaker is to be commended for producing a stimulating mix of history, politics, and sociology.

    —Bill Kissane, Ethics and International Affairs


  • Rogers Brubaker is Professor of Sociology and UCLA Foundation Chair at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Book Details

  • 296 pages
  • 0-11/16 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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