What about racial groups and boundaries (and race and racism)?

  • Jonathan Y. Okamura
Keywords: Race, racism, ethnicity, Micronesians, Hawai‘i


This article begins by discussing the major theoretical contributions of Barth’s “Introduction” to Ethnic Groups and Boundaries and of a later essay he wrote on “Enduring and Emerging Issues in the Analysis of Ethnicity” (1994), which assessed the significance of his edited book. Among the principal contributions of Barth discussed are the greater sociological concern with ethnicity beginning in the 1970s, his emphasis on what “the actors themselves regard as significant,” which contributed to the understanding of the social construction of ethnicity and race, and his argument that ethnic groups organise interactions between people, which led to the view of ethnicity (and race) as an organising principle of social relations. Also reviewed are the primary shortcomings of Barth’s essays, including not mentioning the significance of race and racism and how race, rather than ethnicity, is the dominant principle of social organisation in many societies and thus serves as a boundary among groups.