Midterm #1 Review

AN252 Fall 2019

For each of these terms or phrases:

·know when and why they came up (context)

·what they mean (definition)

·why they were important in our conversations (significance)

Social/cultural constructivism

  • Idea first appears in Anthony D. Smith’s article

  • Came up to explain how culture can be “created” by people

    • Antithesis to “essentialism”, where culture “just is”

  • When something is made up of various features that are consistently shifting + rebuilt, aka many explanations and theories surrounding something

  • Important to understand how culture is formed and how its formation contributes to a group’s identity

Emic versus etic perspectives 

  • Emic: how a group views itself

  • Emic can be subdivided: spatial vs travels with you, relational vs inherent, performance vs internal essence, and shared history vs self invention

  • Etic: how an outsider views the group; analytical observation

  • Important because looking at the readings, especially the Edge of Islam with possesions, Smith’s emic understandings of culture and Barth’s etic approach will help with comprehensive understanding

    • This is a framework through which to interpret groups. For instance, justification of a principle from an etic perspective may not make any sense to emic and vice versa.

Strategic essentialism

  • The Giriama use this against the Swahili in an attempt to fight back Swahili influence and as a method to strengthen themselves as a group in the greater context of society

  • Kosek: Hispanos use the idea of being culturally linked to the land through this extended history of labor that then rallies many supporters; this was more effective than the other attempt to garner support on behalf of the objective injustice of everything (income inequality, etc) because that would require a conformational change of all of society (ie capitalist infrastructure that is wrong)

  • The use of essentialist notions of a group’s core and essential values as a political mobilization and representation technique

    • A manipulation done in order to gain an advantage in return

  • Although intended as a defensive technique by the Giriama against the Swahili in order to retain their sense of self and denigrate the Swahili, it ultimately backfired since it allowed the Swahili to further distance themselves from the Giriama and emphatically highlight how the Giriama could not assimilate into Swahili culture. It’s also ineffective because we see in practice that the Giriama greatly admire and are usually ambiguous about the Swahili, dipping into polyontologism and using the Muslim spirits to achieve their own means when the Traditionalist Giriama spirits were unsuccessful.

    • The Giriama ultimately play into Swahili hegemony 

Instrumental identities

  • First appears in Barth

  • Using an identity to get something you want. Switching a performance to get a desired outcome 

    • Contrast to strategic essentialism: which is instrumental identity on a much larger scale

      • Instrumental identities tend to be individual efforts

    • Does not have to be essentialized 

    • Individual negotiation, not necessarily utilized by a larger population

      • This plays into Barth’s idea of using identity for material gain; similar to how he said people easily give up and trade identities when they no longer elicit benefits, a person can also take up a new identity without repercussions in order to get things they want

  • Significant in realizing identity is fluid and able to be manipulated in social contexts 

Nested identities

  • Barth

  • A hierarchy of identities that nest, or enfold, into each other

  • ie  [woman (mother (caregiver) ) ] 

  • Overarching identity is most important, in Barth’s case being ethnicity

  • E.g. you’re American but also →  New Yorker but also → from the village of wherever, etc…

    • Which one you’ll refer to is situational

  • Identity

Categorical versus relational identities

  • Found in Cooper and Brubaker as alternative terms to just “identity” 

  • Similar to hard vs soft; categorical identity is based around a category you are sorted into by sharing an attribute;  relational is based on your relationships with others/your own group, more malleable 

  • Categorical identity 

    • Smith

    • Carried identity 

    • Hard identity 

    • Unchanging and permanent

    • Identity lies within you

    • Based on unchanging membership in a group, regardless of whether it’s essentialist or constructivist

  • Relational identity 

    • Barth

    • Contextual and changing

    • Depends on social context

    • Soft identity

    • Subject to change

    • Identity lies between us

  • Significant in not only critiquing the term “identity” but also in demonstrating its different meanings and usages as an analytical term 

Hard/strong versus soft/weak forms of “identity”

  • First emerges in Cooper and Brubaker as terms to critique the vagueness of the term “identity”

  • Hard/strong

    • Smith

    • Assumption of sameness

    • Strict, hard boundaries 

    • Everyone has an identity regardless of awareness 

    • Categorical

    • Problematic due to setting hard boundaries, creating a laundry list of “criteria”

      • Is challenged by people who fall in between criteria, different situations, and the fluidity of identity

  • Weak/soft 

    • Barth

    • Fluid and loose boundaries

    • Changes over time and w/ context 

    • Can have multiple identities at the same time, and identities between those 

    • Relational 

    • Problematic due to being such a fluid and catch-all term, makes “identity” almost lose its meaning entirely 

      • Multiple definitions, vague

  • Is important in critiquing the term “identity”, it’s many definitions, and interpretations

Essentialist versus relational analyses of identity

  • Smith’s article for essentialist, Barth’s article for relational 

    • Terms emerged to explain two primary ways in which identity emerges 

  •  Essentialist analysis

    • Identity of a group of people exists because it has always been that way

    • Unclear origin

    • Not a useful analytical lens 

  • Relational analysis

    • Identity of an ethnic group of people exists based off of their interactions with other ethnic groups of people

    • Identity does not exist in a vacuum, must be a result of differences w/ other people

  • These terms are important both as analytical lenses and showing how identity is not necessarily an intrinsic quality, and how an identity can change in different circumstances


  • Before moving into McIntosh

  • The domination of a culturally diverse society by a dominant/ruling group’s ideas to make said ideas an accepted cultural norm in said society 

  • Understand internalized norms, saying “this has been like this, always.” 

  • Swahili enforce hegemony over the Giriama that, incidentally, the Giriama reinforce

“Structures of feeling”

  • Used by Kosek in Understories Ch. 3 to describe relations between labor, class, and land for the Hispanos

  • Fusion of labor giving people a deep connection + history assuming the labor has always been done this way 

    • Essentialist perspective of labor

    • Feeling of entitlement to the land and its use because they worked + lived there so long

  • Labor embedded in larger, deeper, representations

    • Labor representing different aspects of Hispano life and their connection to the land

  • Important in gaining an emic perspective of the Hispano relations to land and the value they place in it

    • Shows how the land is symbolic and shapes other aspects of Hispano culture


  • Appears in McIntosh Ch. 1 to explain an ethnic group’s views/perspectives/main ideas/beliefs 

  • A group’s most consciously held views, explicitly formulated

  • Can either conflict w/ hegemony or align (highlight) w/ it

    • Can also appear conflicting but, upon further analysis, actually play into hegemony

  • Important due to understanding how ethnic groups think and perceive power relations 

    • Important to understand how they value hegemonic relations, how they deal with those relations, and why those relations persist 


  • Giriama and Swahili

    • Giriama

      • Pragmatic, performative

      • Appearance matters

    • Swahili

      • Faith based

      • Intention you put to your practices is more important

      • More spiritual

  • Definitions:

    • Person (personne): a notion of personhood that is relational; “you” are defined by your role in society.

    • Self (moi): a notion of personhood that is not relational; there is some internal essential “you” that remains fundamentally consistent over the span of your life. Mauss credits the origin of this idea to the Enlightenment.

  • Affects how Giriama and Swahili view religion; the Giriama, whose notion of personhood is closer to that of personne, put more emphasis on the performance of the ritual itself, whereas the Swahili, whose notion of personhood is closer to that of moi, instead emphasize belief.

Language ideologies

  • Status of Kigiriama vs Kiswahili

  • The ways in which languages and speakers of those languages are perceived by a culture. Example: the different ways in which Spanish and French are perceived in the US, despite being extremely similar.

  • Valence of code varies by context, and may reaffirm ethnoreligious tensions

  • Kigiriama is seen as being a lesser language that Kiswahili. This is also related to the concept of “code switching”; when talking to Giriama spirits, the Giriama use Kigiriama and talk more formally, whereas when they talk to Swahili/Muslim spirits, they use Kiswahili and a much more reverant tone. 

Polyontologism vs monontologism

  • Giriama vs Swahili notions of truth(s)

  • Polyontologism is a mode of thought where different systems of truth can be true in different contexts. Monontologism is a mode of thought where only one system of truth can be true.

    • Polyontologism believes that multiple forces in the world have mystical potency

    • Monoontologism believes that only one force has mystical potency-> fixate on universal truth of a system

  • Relates to differing notions of personhood between the Giriama and Swahili, explains why the Giriama more readily take place in Islamic rituals than the Swahili do for Giriama rituals.

Ethnographic versus Theoretical questions

  • Theoretical and ethnographic questions in ethnographies mirror each other 

    • Every ethnography has both types of questions

      • They pair up

  • Brubaker and Cooper, Barth, and Smith and McIntosh all posed theoretical questions

    • Theoretical questions can be asked w/o ethnographic ones, but not vice versa 

      • Ethnographic questions are rooted in theory 

  • Theoretical 

    • Rooted in theory

    • Applies to larger concepts with social sciences/anthropology

      • Not practically applied to a certain group of people 

    • ie how/why is something the way it is

  • Ethnographic 

    • Practical questions 

    • Related to asking about behaviors of a specific ethnic group of people

    • ie in context of daily life, what’s going on

  • Important in differentiating different analytical questions and lenses, as well as their purpose and applications

II. Think about how you might go about answering the following questions:

What is the difference between talking about “identity” and talking about “identification”?  What do you gain by talking about “identification” instead of “identity”? 

  • Brubaker and Cooper

  • Alternatives to the word “identity”

  • Identification is a process 

    • Something that you do

  • Identity is a state of being, noun

    • Implies it is something that you are/ a part of you (colloquial meaning similar to “hard” notions of identity)

    • Essentialist 

    • Reifying and amorphous when it shouldn’t be

      • Assumes homogeneity in a group based on the past 

Why do Brubaker and Cooper distinguish between groupness, commonality, and connectedness?  Why might we call these different modes of “solidarity”? What analytic purpose might these different terms serve?

  • Distinguish the terms due to “identity” applying to both groups and individuals 

    • Also distinguishes between tight and loose connections 

  • These different terms are useful in analyzing relations of different depths/degrees 

  • Groupness 

    • Feeling of being part of a distinct, bounded, solidary group

    • Commonality + connectedness 

  • Commonality

    • Having common traits with others 

  • Connectedness  

    • Relational ties that link people

    • Requires a feeling of belonging together 

What is the difference between thinking about identity as “cultural difference” and identity as “boundary work”?  In other words, how are Smith and Barth different? How and why does Barth argue against the conflation of culture with identity?

  • “Cultural difference” 

    • Identity strongest in isolation; cultural differences theoretically more pronounced when cultures don’t interact 

    • Smith: you’re one thing all the time

  • “Boundary work”

    • Identity strongest in a multicultural setting where it can be compared to others; differences more pronounced in cultural comparisons 

    • Barth: you’re one thing or the other, not both

  • Identity is difficult to define just based off culture 

    • Laundry-list of traits; think “table-ness of a table” you reach a dead end

    • People w/ similar cultures can identify as different and people w/ different cultures can identify as the same 

    • Culture is not a good way of defining identity/ethnicity 

Why does McIntosh think that divergent notions of “personhood” are key to the production of the Giriama and the Swahili’s sense that they are fundamentally different flavors of human?  Can you give examples of when/how divergent notions of personhood reinforce this sense of essential difference? And can you link Swahili notions of personhood to relatively recent reformist movements within global Islam?

  • Giriama have a notion similar to “personne”

    • Relational identity  

    • Defined by role in society 

    • Identity as malleable 

  • Swahili have a notion similar to “moi”

    • Idea of a permanent, unchanging, lifelong self 

      • Not relational 

    • An intrinsically consistent being

    • Identity as hard 

  • Essential difference of each group in terms of and food consumed 

    • Swahili believe Giriama food will make them fall ill and vice versa

  • Each group’s perception of religion 

    • Emphasis of acting (Giriama) vs believing, nia (Swahili)

    • Giriama believe one can switch their practices in different contexts 

    • Swahili sense of internal rational faith

      • Connects to internat’l movement towards “purer” forms of Islam, fewer local cultural practices

Which of our early theorists best helps us understand the Giriama’s emic sense that Swahili bodies cannot tolerate Giriama foods or practices?  Which theorist best helps us analyze what is happening between the Giriama and the Swahili on the Kenyan coast?  Why?

  • Smith helps us understand the Giriama’s emic sense that Swahili bodies cannot tolerate Giriama foods or practices

    • Both groups feel intrinsically different from each other 

    • Feeling of Betrayal due to seeing their food as essential to their identity 

      • To not eat said food makes them not part of said group

  • Barth  helps us analyze what is happening between the Giriama and the Swahili on the Kenyan coast 

    • Identity is most pronounced when cultures collide and interact with each other 

    • “Boundary work” 

Kosek tells us that forests in the American southwest are an important starting point for understanding race and class in America.  Why? What is it about the way we think about “nature” that is raced and classed? And what might that tell us about the traditional ways we think about “nature” itself?

  • Nature is linked to resource politics

    • Precedent of nature -> purity -> isolation, untouched by man (whiteness)

      • Immigration violated this ideology 

      • Race-based in that Hispanos have deep ties to the land and this opposed the white/environmentalist schema of the land

    • In reality, much work and labor is put into making nature appear as if it is in isolation

      • But without human interference, deadbrush and overgrowth would conquer

For Kosek, what role does labor play in making “natural” landscapes and the people who feel at home in those landscapes?  How can you see this in his account? What does it have to do with “structures of feeling”? How is this account of belonging different from the way Barth talks about livelihood and identity?

  • Labor maintains the natural landscape through physical input (in this case, by the Hispanos)

  • This labor relates to the Hispanos’ sense of self or their deep ties to the land, aka structures of feeling

  • Barth is very focused on material gain and the ease of shedding one identity for another

    • Antithesis of the Hispanos, who have an irrevocable tie to the Truchas forests

Kosek shows us that many of the tropes associated with the communities in and around Truchas come from attempts to “develop” the area through tourism and forest management.  The residents of Truchas, in turn, have internalized some of these stereotypes about their links to the land and certain livelihoods. Why might we think of this as an example of “strategic essentialism”?  In what ways is it “essentialist”? In what ways is it “strategic”?

  • Hispanos agree to perpetuate a system where they are subordinate in order to maintain their own personal access/use/labor practices with the forest itself

  • Hispanos use their cultural tie to the land, as opposed to a historically inequality endured in the whole system, to fight for their rights and this drew a diverse group of supporters

  • This is essentialist because the Hispanos are deeply embodying their connection to the forest to an extreme extent, making it a central part of who they are irregardless of spatial location and other external factors 

 Readings with summary of points


  • Believed in essentialized ethnicity that predates capitalism (counter to marxist constructivism)

  • Did not want to be considered a primordialist, believed that ethnicity to an extent is shaped by society but still a real non fabricated thing.

  • Not useful for analysis his logic is circular

  • Focus on the emotional aspect-> deep ties to who you are


  • Constructivist

  • Does not believe that ethnicity form in isolation but instead from the interaction of different groups.

  • He believes that ethnicity is completely malleable

  • Extremely far removed from the emic perspective does not address feelings of betrayal when someone changed ethnicity. 

  • Focus on boundary work and relational interactions with others

  • Easy to shift between identities for material gain/personal advantage

Brubaker and Cooper

  • Identity is a stupid word, it’s amorphous and essentialist and places expectations on us that aren’t necessary

  • There are hard and soft notions of identity as used in academia

  • Hard identity is not analytically useful while soft identity is completely separate from anything people associate with the word. 

  • If identity is composed of separate things which may not be relevant to one another shouldn’t people focus on those things instead of the umbrella term. 

McIntosh – Edge of Islam

  • Giriama and Swahili

  • Colonialism essentializes ethnicity

  • Contrasting notions of personhood 

    • Giriama have person – identity 

    • Swahili have self – individualistic and spiritualism 

  • Giriama essentialize identity even when it hurts them because they consider themselves better

  • Hegemony of Swahili is maintained even with Giriama’s version of strategic essentialism


  • Nature is cultured

  • People essentialize raced version of natural world (teddy roosevelt) 

  • Strategic essentialism where people leverage the hegemony to achieve political goals

  • Nature in resource politics