Race, Culture and Ethnicity in Minority Research: A Critical Discussion

By Dein, Simon | Journal of Cultural Diversity, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Race, Culture and Ethnicity in Minority Research: A Critical Discussion


Dein, Simon, Journal of Cultural Diversity


Abstract: Race and ethnicity are terms commonly used in ethnic minority research. Both these terms present a number of problems in terms of definition and classification. It is argued here that there is a need to move beyond essentialised concepts of race and ethnicity to examine the socio-political processes which relate to their social construction and the ways in which these terms articulate with other categories such as social class and gender and structure social relationships. The implications of the social constructionist position are discussed specifically in relation to the use of interpreters and ethnic matching of researcher and respondent in qualitative research on ethnic minorities.

Key Words: Race, Culture, Cultural Diversity, Ethnicity, Ethnicity in Minority Research

Race and Ethnicity as Modern Concepts

Culture, race and ethnicity are terms commonly used in health services literature, often in a confusing and contradictory way. The term race generally refers to the social group a person belongs to on account of a mix of physical characteristics; whereas, ethnicity refers to the social group a person belongs to based on a shared culture.

Concepts of race and ethnicity originated in the global expansion of European societies from the late fifteenth century onwards, a process associated with the growing exploration of other parts of the world which brought Europeans increasingly into contact with other societies. New ways of classifying the world emerged associated with the rise of scientific knowledge. These ideas about racialised differences relating to 'natural,' observable, physical characteristics, mental capabilities and patterns of behaviour that separate and define different groups, are relatively modern and new (Dubow, 1995).

The concept of race in its modern form emerged at the middle of the nineteenth century as part of this general growth of scientific inquiry and expansion. This science of race characterised human diversity as a "division between fixed and separate races rooted in biological difference and the product of divergent heritages" (Mason, 2000, p. 6). Associated with this concept of difference was a notion of hierarchy, which was legitimised by the rise of social Darwinism and the age of empire. A similar relation between science and politics led to the discrediting of race science at the end of World War II when modern genetic science provided further support for evolutionary accounts and undermined the notion of biological immutability (La Veist, 1994). The concept of biological race gradually disappeared, but the notion of race as a social relationship still exists among social scientists. It has been redefined as a cultural and socio-political construct rather than as a biological one. There have, however, been a number of criticisms of the notion of race.

Bhopal (2001) points out that the definition of race is lacking. There is both a lack of validity of racial classifications, and also a failure to consider the possibility that it is racism rather than race or ethnicity, which underlie differences in disease experience. Smith (2002), argues that the major objection to the present concept of race is that there is no good reason for selecting only certain phenotypical (environmental and genetically caused) or morphological characteristics of human beings in terms of which the concept of race is to be defined rather than other equally good phenotypical and morphological features in terms of which race might have been just as well defined.

As a sociological concept, some have argued that race remains a legitimate concept for sociological analysis, because social actors treat it as real and organise their lives in exclusionary practices by reference to it (Mason, 2000). Mason argues that race does not refer to categories of human beings. Rather, it is a social relationship in which structural positions and social actions are ordered and justified by reference systems of symbols and beliefs which emphasise the social cultural relevance of biologically rooted characteristics. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Race, Culture and Ethnicity in Minority Research: A Critical Discussion
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.