Essay about Race and Ethnicity in Social Sciences

877 Words 4 Pages
Use of the Terms "Race" and "Ethnicity" in the Social Sciences

Defining identity can be complex and therefore we have to investigate the factors involved that make us who we are and how we are seen by others, collectively or individually. Social scientists have to consider the key elements which shape identity, the importance of social structures and agency involved. The differences and/or similarities between us are the focus that categorise and label us in society. Knowing who we are is important for many reasons including, social rights, obtaining a passport, housing, health, employment, marriage, and over all, being able to ascertain who we are, and belong.

The terms ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ are central features in the process of
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These subgroup identities highlight the relational factors which exist in categorising identity, each requiring the other in order to make the comparison between ethnic differences, power and status. Racialization and Ethnicization are preferred concepts as they contribute more to the idea that the identities we adopt are part of a process and are not static, referring to a dynamic process rather than a fixed state.

Categorisations from the 1970’s onwards, such as the definition of ‘black’ or ‘white’, were too vague, and failed to recognise the specific needs of other ethnic minorities. In order to monitor and measure statistically the discrimination and underachievement of such groups, collecting ‘ethnic’ statistics in relation to ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ was necessary and these can be found in official government censuses. Over the years it became apparent that categorisation of ethnic groups in the censuses rendered some groups ‘invisible’ (Questioning Identity, ch 4, p 137, section 4.1.1), for example Irish and Welsh. The category of ‘white’ has had to be expanded into subcategories as the ‘white’ grouping classification remained singular within the censuses until 2001, and ethnicization of ‘whites’ was too generalised. (“Questioning Identity: Kath Woodward ch.4 p138 - Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, 1991) These amendments show us that there have been changes in ethnic representation and that there is more awareness regarding ethnic identities and