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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ethnic Identity as an Interactional Identity (instrumentalist approach)

The word “ethnic” we use daily in our life can have many meaning. It can be mean something foreign, unusual or strange, different, uniqe, traditional, old or ancient, and something cultural. We use to say and speak about ethnic, but we never know where the word “ethnic” come from. The word “ethnic” is come from a greek word used by Homer in Iliad (the eight-seventh befor century), that is “etnos”. Pan-Greek use this word to identify them self against Trojan when there were a war between them. This Pan-greek identity was based on their language, homeland (gaia), “warrior communities” and “ethnos”. Aristotle in the fourth year before century use the word “ethnos” to identify barbarous nations in opposition to Greeks (Dr. Rie Nakamura’s slide).
People nowdays are so confius with their own self-believe ethnic group and ethnic identity. They can not differentiate their own’s because they see ethnic group and ethnic identity as cultural group. As I have learned in class, ethnic identity is an interactional identity. Before I explain the concept of ethnic identity as an “interactional identity”, I would like to explain about ethnic group and ethnic identity first.
An ethnic group is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage. It’s often consisting of a common share of the same language, culture, ideology, and sometime including religion, that stresses common ancestry (Wikipedia, 2011).
As for ethnic identity, it is the extent to which one identifies with a particular ethnic group(s), refers to one’s sense of belonging to certain ethnic group and the part of one’s thinking, perceptions, feelings, and behavior that is due to ethnic group membership. The ethnic group tends to be one in which the individual claims heritage (Phinney, 1996).
Back to ethnic identity is an interactional identity, new edition of Macmillan English Dictionary define interaction as the process by which different things affect each other or change each other. Using this definition, and what I have learned and understand in class, ethnic identity is an interactional identity, is used when people interact with others who they see and think different from them.
Ethnicity is not something that fixed because it’s situationally defined. Ethnic groups are created through particular interactional, historical, economical and political circumstances. The important things is a process of determining “us” vs “them” (Dr Rie Nakamura’s slide). This process is only occur when there is interaction between people and interactional identity will raise the head as a result.
People tends to not think about their ethnic identity when they were alone. Using my personal experience, I come to understand what is interactional identity. When I’m alone, I do not think about who am I and from which ethnic group I belong to. But when I going out to a place where there is a lot of people or with my friends, I tend to think that people around me is different. For example, when I with my Chinese or Indian friends, I will say that I’m Malay and think that we are from different ethnic identity. But when I’m with my Malay friends, I will think that I’m pakistanian because my grandfather is pakistanian.
In my opinion, interactional identity also can be explain using instrumentalist approach. “Instrumentalist perennialism”, is while seeing ethnicity primarily as a versatile tool that identified different ethnic groups and limits through time, explains as a mechanism of social stratification, meaning that ethnicity is the basic for a hierarchical arrangement of individuals. According to Donald Noel, a sociologist who developed a theory on the origin of ethnic stratification, ethnic stratification is a “system of stratification where some relatively fixed group membership for example race, religion, or nationality, is utilized as a major criteria for assigning social position” (Wikipedia, 2011).
The central ideas of the instrumentalist approach is ethnicity is socially constructed and it is not given. I belive that social constructed also can give effects to interactional identity. It is because human nature, people want to be excepted by other to make their life easier. Like ethnic experiences that J. Nagata (1974) had been study, arabs decendent identify them self as Malay to differentiate them self from Chinese. In my opinion, they identify them self as Malays and not arabs because they can get the same benefit that Malay people get from the government. But when something bad happen or do by Malay, they switch as an arabs. It is because they do not want to be drag to the mess that had been done by Malay people that can give bad impact to their economic for example.
Another reason why I’m saying that interactional identity can be explain by instrumentalist approach is people tends to change their ethnic identity when they interact with other people to gain something materially. Like when arabs identify them self as Malay as a opposition to Chinese, they actually gain profite from it. It is because in Malaysia, Malays which can be call bumiputera, the original people who live in Malaysia when it is still called Tanah Melayu get many special treatment. For example, chance to get a job in government and scholarship is more easy for Malay people. So, to identify them self as Malay descendent, they can get all that special treatment. This also can happen in a term of political and economical interest.
For conclusion, ethnic identity become as an interactional identity when there is a contact or interaction between two or more people. It is also happen because people want to set a line between them and others to differentiate them self and make them self feel more secure. There a many explaination to tell us about ethnic identity as an interactional identity and instrumentalist approach also can be use to explain interactional identity.

Ethnic group- (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_group)
Ethnic identity- (http://www.uky.edu/Classes/FAM/357/fam544/ethnic_identity.htm)
Instrumentalist approach-
Dr. Rie Nakamura’s slide- chapter 3 (ethnic trobles and theories)

write by: N.F.A.M
mark given by Dr R.Nakamura: 29/30 

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