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Bhavani Arabandi

Subject Sociology » Sociology of Race and Ethnicity

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


In a world characterized by massive immigration and high rates of intermarriage, it was inevitable that a new type of ethnicity, polyethnicity, would emerge. Whereas ethnicity is commonly understood to reflect the shared ancestry and history of a people, polyethnicity in this context refers to the ability and willingness of individuals to identify with multiple ethnicities and multiple identities. Although some scholars have traditionally argued that race and ethnicity are biologically determined, what seems increasingly evident to most scholars today is that race and ethnicity are social constructs, i.e., ideas, assumptions, and classifications that change over time and space ( Waters 2000 ). Thus, ethnic groups are no longer seen as static and unchanging, but as emerging groups whose identities are constantly shifting as groups redefine their boundaries and criteria for membership. Today, for example, there is also the recognition that ethnicity has changed from its initial emphasis on division and exclusion between and among ethnic groups to its increasing importance as an idea and value supporting the intermixing and merger of various ethnicities. This intermixing, through immigration and intermarriage, has not only promoted a sense of interconnectedness and polyethnicity, but has also given rise to new patterns of social organization ( Pagnini & Morgan 1990 ; Spikard & ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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