Chapter

A Combinatorial Language for Thinking about Ethnic Identity Change

Kanchan Chandra and Cilanne Boulet

in Constructivist Theories of Ethnic Politics

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199893157
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980079 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199893157.003.0005
A Combinatorial Language for Thinking about Ethnic Identity Change

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This chapter shows that an ethnic identity category as defined above can be reformulated as a combination of elements from a fixed set. Based on this simple reformulation, it proposes a new combinatorial framework for thinking about ethnic identity and ethnic identity change. This framework builds on one key property of ethnic identities: the short-term fixedness of the descent-based attributes that constitute ethnic identities. This allows us to express an ethnic identity category as a combination of elements from a fixed set and therefore to translate the mechanisms by which ethnic identities change into the language of combinatorial mathematics. This framework makes it possible for the first time to describe the complexity of a constructivist world, with its large identity repertoires, in multiple dimensions, that differ across individuals and populations, in a way that is amenable to theory building.

Keywords: combination; attribute; category; value; dimension; repertoire; nested; cross-cutting; coinciding; recombination

Chapter.  17596 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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