New Philadelphia: An Archaeology of Race in the Heartland

By Paul A. Shackel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Race and the Illusion
of Harmony

Race and ethnic identity are charged with meaning and develop in different ways. Orser (2007:8) explains that ethnicity is created from the inside, whereas race is imposed from the outside based on perceived biophysical differences as well as cultural practices and religious beliefs and traditions. Racialization is the process of assigning people to groups based on physical or cultural characteristics, which helps create the perception of inferior or socially unequal groups. Racialization creates racially meaningful groups that previously did not exist. Those classified as “other” are seen as inferior to the group creating these classifications (Orni and Winant 1983:51; Orser 2007:9).


RACE AND THE POWER OF ILLUSION

The term race had no clear meaning until the eighteenth century. While the English were busy conquering the world, they developed attitudes that had not appeared before in Western history. They created a new kind of understanding and interpretation of human differences. For instance, while relegating the Irish to a subordinate group, the English developed and institutionalized the concept of savagery, a term that became very prominent in the early evolutionary theories of nineteenth-century thinkers. The English expressed a hatred of both Irish culture and people, a sentiment that reached its peak during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when the English began their settlement of North America

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