AND FUTURE PROSPECTS
Edward D. Boldt
The meaning of ethnicity, one learns from the literature, has changed. The old ethnicity, based on transplanted cultural differences, has given way to the new ethnicity, based on emergent differences in state of mind, which ebb and flow in response to various situational and structural influences. Traditional assimilationist approaches are now described as static and simplistic, not to mention misguided and erroneous. In their place we are presented with pluralist and other approaches that are touted as dynamic and sophisticated. Such claims leave me nervous and just a little skeptical. In our rush to bury assimilation, have we created something of a straw man?
If one characterizes the assimilationist approach as positing an image of ethnicity as nothing more than transplanted normative peculiarities that inevitably and irreversibly reduce to zero within three generations, then of course one has to protest. But who has made such a claim? Milton Gordon ( 1964) certainly does not, and even Robert Park ( 1950) surely knew better. An equivalent caricature of certain of the new approaches might state that ethnicity is certain feelings that all people have about their roots, with few (if any) behavioural consequences, but that nevertheless endure forever! It seems that a calmer and fairer rendering of assimilation theory might be as follows: