Accepted paper:

Ethnic absolutism and the re-working of charged 'symbols' in a North Manchester town


Katherine Smith (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is based on twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork in North Manchester. It will explore the use of terms in the objectifications and reifications of other and the relationships between ‘ethnicity’, ‘ethnic absolutism’ and forms of ‘racisms’.

Paper long abstract:

Based upon twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork, this paper will explore the shifting meanings of local racial differentiations in Higher Blackley, North Manchester, England. It will focus upon the use of terms in the objectifications and reifications of others and the relationships between 'ethnicity' as a 'shifting politics of identity and "collective" representation' and 'ethnic absolutism' as a 'progressively essentialising politics of violation and absolute negation of alterity' (Werbner 1997: 227-228). The distinction between and co-evolution of the 'biological' and the 'social' has been blurred with recent studies and technological developments; however, taken-for-granted language used to point to perceived 'biological' differences between 'races' will be explored further, deconstructed and put into a critical light for reflection. As such, this paper will explore the 'naturalness' attributed to socially constructed, sometimes shared categories that set up arbitrary boundaries, and which become in time routine practice, grounded in commonsensical social constructions.

panel P16
Genes and culture, past and present