Conceptualizing Cultural Groups and Cultural Difference

The Social Mechanism-Approach

R.H.M. Pierik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

The aim of this article is to present a conceptualization of cultural groups and cultural difference that provides a middle course between the Scylla of essentialism and the Charybdis of reductionism. The method I employ is the social mechanism approach. I argue that cultural groups and cultural difference should be understood as the result of cognitive and social processes of categorization. I describe two such processes in particular: categorization by others and selfcategorization. Categorization by others is caused by processes of ascription: the attribution by outsiders of certain characteristics, beliefs, and practices to individuals who share a specific attribute. Self-categorization is caused by processes of inscription and community-building: the adoption of certain beliefs and practices as a result of socialization and enculturation. I therefore shift the focus from groups to categories, and from categories to processes of categorization. I show that this analytical distinction between categorization by others and self-categorization can clarify an ambiguity in dominant debates in contemporary multiculturalism. I conclude by indicating how injustices, commonly associated with multiculturalism, can better be understood as socially generated injustices, and how government should deal with these injustices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-545
Number of pages22
JournalEthnicities
Volume4
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2004

Fingerprint

cultural difference
multicultural society
Group
enculturation
reductionism
social process
socialization
attribution
Group Differences
Cultural Groups
Social Mechanisms
Cultural Differences
community
Injustice

Cite this

@article{bcac6411efd849a6932080ad54255c24,
title = "Conceptualizing Cultural Groups and Cultural Difference: The Social Mechanism-Approach",
abstract = "The aim of this article is to present a conceptualization of cultural groups and cultural difference that provides a middle course between the Scylla of essentialism and the Charybdis of reductionism. The method I employ is the social mechanism approach. I argue that cultural groups and cultural difference should be understood as the result of cognitive and social processes of categorization. I describe two such processes in particular: categorization by others and selfcategorization. Categorization by others is caused by processes of ascription: the attribution by outsiders of certain characteristics, beliefs, and practices to individuals who share a specific attribute. Self-categorization is caused by processes of inscription and community-building: the adoption of certain beliefs and practices as a result of socialization and enculturation. I therefore shift the focus from groups to categories, and from categories to processes of categorization. I show that this analytical distinction between categorization by others and self-categorization can clarify an ambiguity in dominant debates in contemporary multiculturalism. I conclude by indicating how injustices, commonly associated with multiculturalism, can better be understood as socially generated injustices, and how government should deal with these injustices.",
author = "R.H.M. Pierik",
note = "Pagination: 22",
year = "2004",
language = "English",
volume = "4",
pages = "523--545",
journal = "Ethnicities",
issn = "1468-7968",
publisher = "Sage Publications Ltd",
number = "4",

}

Conceptualizing Cultural Groups and Cultural Difference : The Social Mechanism-Approach. / Pierik, R.H.M.

In: Ethnicities, Vol. 4, No. 4, 2004, p. 523-545.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Conceptualizing Cultural Groups and Cultural Difference

T2 - The Social Mechanism-Approach

AU - Pierik, R.H.M.

N1 - Pagination: 22

PY - 2004

Y1 - 2004

N2 - The aim of this article is to present a conceptualization of cultural groups and cultural difference that provides a middle course between the Scylla of essentialism and the Charybdis of reductionism. The method I employ is the social mechanism approach. I argue that cultural groups and cultural difference should be understood as the result of cognitive and social processes of categorization. I describe two such processes in particular: categorization by others and selfcategorization. Categorization by others is caused by processes of ascription: the attribution by outsiders of certain characteristics, beliefs, and practices to individuals who share a specific attribute. Self-categorization is caused by processes of inscription and community-building: the adoption of certain beliefs and practices as a result of socialization and enculturation. I therefore shift the focus from groups to categories, and from categories to processes of categorization. I show that this analytical distinction between categorization by others and self-categorization can clarify an ambiguity in dominant debates in contemporary multiculturalism. I conclude by indicating how injustices, commonly associated with multiculturalism, can better be understood as socially generated injustices, and how government should deal with these injustices.

AB - The aim of this article is to present a conceptualization of cultural groups and cultural difference that provides a middle course between the Scylla of essentialism and the Charybdis of reductionism. The method I employ is the social mechanism approach. I argue that cultural groups and cultural difference should be understood as the result of cognitive and social processes of categorization. I describe two such processes in particular: categorization by others and selfcategorization. Categorization by others is caused by processes of ascription: the attribution by outsiders of certain characteristics, beliefs, and practices to individuals who share a specific attribute. Self-categorization is caused by processes of inscription and community-building: the adoption of certain beliefs and practices as a result of socialization and enculturation. I therefore shift the focus from groups to categories, and from categories to processes of categorization. I show that this analytical distinction between categorization by others and self-categorization can clarify an ambiguity in dominant debates in contemporary multiculturalism. I conclude by indicating how injustices, commonly associated with multiculturalism, can better be understood as socially generated injustices, and how government should deal with these injustices.

M3 - Article

VL - 4

SP - 523

EP - 545

JO - Ethnicities

JF - Ethnicities

SN - 1468-7968

IS - 4

ER -