In this study, sense of belonging and collectiveidentity is examined from the perspective of group boundary theory. Thefollowing section is giving an overview on how group boundaries are made, whilethe later part is focusing on self- identification and sense of belongingcomponents exclusively. 1.1.1. Drawing boundariesThe concept of boundaries hasbeen associated with several research subjects; to name few, with social andcollective identity, cultural membership, racial and ethnic group positioning,group rights and many other (Lamont& Molnar, 2002). In the academic world,boundaries are distinguished in two dimensions- social and symbolic boundaries;where symbolic boundaries are distinctions made by the social actors and theseboundaries separate people into two or more groups and they involve the feelingof similarity and group membership (Lamont& Molnar, 2002).
On the other hand, social boundaries are “objectifiedforms of social differences manifested in unequal access to an unequaldistribution of resources and social opportunities” (Lamont& Molnar, 2002,p168). However, boundaries mentioned above are closely related and they canshift from one to another; when symbolic boundaries are widely accepted andinstitutionalized, they become a social boundary, for instance, throughcitizenship laws (Lamont and Molnar 2002). Usually, “boundaries of collectiveidentity are also taken for granted until they are threatened” (Jenkins, 1994,p200).
- Thesis Statement
- Structure and Outline
- Voice and Grammar
Symbolic and socialboundaries are multidimensional; they include multiple self- identificationdimensions, for instance, race, religion, language, culture or human capital.According to psychologists, social identity requires that groups arecategorized as in- groups and out- groups; it is, group members or non- memberssee this symbolic boundary; and these groups are competing for their socialresources. Besides, social boundaries can be and are actively negotiated andrenegotiated; also, as the power is in the hands of the majority, it can setcertain symbolic and social boundaries for some groups and different ones forthe other groups (Bail, 2008, p39).Symbolic boundaries playan active role in everyday life as well. Group members of the given group haveestablished a feeling to “take care of their own kind”; have developed afeeling of commonness. Such a distinction automatically (consciously orunconsciously) develop an inclusion and exclusion (Lamont& Molnar, 2002).
Intergroupcompetition and conflict also might occur. The competition for all the goods(social hierarchy, economic goods, prestige, etc.) (Tajfel, 1982).Symbolic boundaries arenot set out of blue; as mentioned above, there is a need for the feeling ofsimilarity and commonness in order to form a group and thus- boundaries;language and culture are considered as the most important symbolic boundaries;race and ethnic membership has a significant impact in some countries as well.In fact, language and culture are found as the most important human capital forsymbolic boundaries, while race and religion as the least important (Bail,2008). It is argued that people drawtheir group boundaries on moral, socio- economic and cultural contents (Lamont,1992).
In large and complex societies,people differentiate and subdivided identities with other meaningful socialdimensions- gender, sexual orientation, occupation, religion, ethnicity,political ideology and others; each of these divisions provide a certainmembership and shared identities to the person. Usually, these identities arenot exclusive, however, they might be closely connected, for instance,occupation and political ideology (Brewer, Gonsalkorale& van Dommelen, 2012;Williams, 1989).Any social identity is both nominal (it has a name)and virtual (it has a meaning or experience); the distinction is importantbecause one can change without the other doing so (Jenkins, 1994), forinstance, an ethnic name (Russian) does not change its name, but the experienceit might be having now and, in the future (or in the past), might be different.In the ever-changing reality, group boundaries mightchange; there might either boundary crossing, blurring or shifting occur. Thesestrategies involve different change in the between group distinction. Boundarycrossing occurs, when boundaries are not thick and people from one group canenter the other.
Boundary blurring occurs, when two group identities arebecoming more similar or they are losing their uniqueness. Boundary shiftingoccurs when there are changes of the group identity, these boundaries couldbecome both more inclusive and exclusive (Wimmer, 2008; Wimmer, 2008b). AsJenkins puts it, there are some scenarios when group assimilates and changesits character, and thus the very definition of the group changes. Scenarioswhen that could happen are such as- external group and internal group arelosing they uniqueness and becoming more similar to each other; the secondwould be- communication is harmonious between the groups; languages andcultures interact and therefore identities do the same. Another situation might be, when there are political pressure or oppression, which causes boundary a blur (Jenkins, 1994).However, if group, for instance, ethnic identity changes, it does not mean thatit is fake; the importance of some identity markers has changed but none of the is hierarchically higher than other before the importanceby individuals is given (Gil- White, 1999)When makingboundaries and identifying oneself as a member of the given group, anautomatically distinction of “us” and “others” occurs, where individualsidentify themselves and others in particular situations; when this recognitionis influencing person’s behaviour, a social boundary is developed (Wimmer,2008b; Wimmer, 2013). By naming boundaries, people define who they are(Epstein, 1992).Social boundariescould be categorized and named by both the members of the group and the”others”, furthermore, the understanding of the respective group identity mightbe different not just among the “us” and “others”, but also among the groupmembers themselves (Jenkins, 1994).
Individuals tend to explain and interprettheir behaviour, thoughts or demands with the cultural group identity (Wimmer,2008b) Group identity is not independent in the world- it is created bysocializing and communication with others; sometimes a group is recognized anddefined by others and not by “us”; identity is a product of internal andexternal definition (Jenkins, 1994). While symbolic boundaries are made by social actors tocategorize people, practices, objects or space; social boundaries are”objectified forms of social differences manifested in unequal access to andunequal distribution of resources (material and nonmaterial) and socialopportunities” (Lamont& Molnar, 2002, p168- 169). Both boundaries are real;it could be said that symbolic boundaries are necessary for the existence ofsocial boundaries. In situations, when one group is perceived as more prestigiousor powerful, a social competition occurs, and people might engage in the socialmobility (Lamont& Molnar, 2002). 2.1.2.
Boundaries withinnation- stateThe process of group identification, creates amajority and a minority at the same time. By creating broader majority groupboundaries, a state becomes more inclusive (Williams, 1989).”The making of ethnic minorities often entails asecond process of emphasis shifting, amalgamation or incorporation: of smallerminority groups into larger categories easier to administer through indirectrule or a modern ‘minority’ policy.
Majority formation and minority making arethus two aspects of the same process” (Williams, 1989, p52). While majority (ina democratic state) is holding the power, minority group is encouraged to crossthe boundaries into the majority by using different strategies to overcome theexclusion and discrimination (Wimmer, 2008b)In the nation state identity is not a statement of whoone is as an individual, but rather- a function of who we are as acollectivity; there is a discussion of collective rights and inclusivity notabout individual rights (Chun, 1996).In any nation state there is some kind of an ethniccategorization; there usually is majority, which is supported greatly by theofficial language, culture and history, and there are minority groups, who,most likely, are deprived from some of these goods (Jenkins, 1994). In order toescape such an uneven distribution of several kinds of goods, a state might de-emphasize ethnic or national boundaries to create a global, rather than local,community to belong to; this strategy might help those, who are otherwiseexcluded or stigmatized in the nation. A global national identity could beachieved by emphasizing civilizing commonalities (Wimmer, 2008).
Blurred boundaries within a nation state are desirablebecause it could theoretically illuminate similarities and differences, andthus- increasing a sense of commonality. A higher sense of commonality wouldincrease a greater equality between individuals and if ethnic boarders areblurred, it would increase civic national identity and potentially maintain astable democracy in the state (Lamont& Molnar, 2002). “The focus onethnocentric variables sometimes led to a neglect of the structural constrainsof social situation” (Tajfel, 1982, p18). One could argue that defining ethnic boundaries of thestate is one of the main task of the state, because they form national identityand nation building policies; by defining ethnic boundaries, politics ofrecognition, official language, history, culture and education are created(Wimmer, 2008b). This is also tricky, because every human has rights to beculturally recognized and expressed in the public; however, several kinds ofsymbolic and social boundaries deployed in the society of the nation, mightdeprive some members of the state (Bail, 2008). In some occasions, individuals from differentbackgrounds might accept the rules of assimilation and cross the boundary intothe “majority’s nationality”, because that would allow them to be more equal inthe status and wealth (Wimmer, 2002). Assimilation is a process of cultural andethnic boundary crossing, when one or more individuals agree on “giving up”their cultural (ethnic) identity in order to have an equal treatment before thelaw and increase life chances (Wimmer, 2008b).
In order to achieve a social cohesion for allinhabitants of the state such activities and components should bedeveloped: common values among the allgroup members and a civic culture should be established, some kind of socialorder and control must be implemented (for instance, national holidays,religious freedom, etc.), social solidarity and economic equality must beevident, social networks and social capital should be strengthened and a commonterritorial belonging and a sense of common identity (Beauvais& Jenson,2002). These commonalities could be developed by loosening boundaries andmaking them more inclusive. If there is a high ethnic group boundary hierarchy, anew ethnic boundary needs to be advocated in order to possess a considerablepolitical power and legitimacy; if political networks are strongly aligned withethnic boundaries, it will be difficult to switch the focus on other groupboundaries, for instance, generational or gender (Wimmer, 2008b).Narratives play an important role in the collectiveidentity forming; not just the ethnic but also- national identity constructionand existence is highly built on the narratives. If these narratives are in adiscourse and in a disharmony to one another, there is a possibility of thetransformation of the national identity over time (Wagner- Pacifici, 2010).If there are no differences or inequalities betweenthe ethnic groups in terms of social, political, occupational or religiousgroups, ethnic group membership is loosening its importance; and otheridentities such as occupational membership might have a higher importance thanethnic group membership, because in terms of ethnic identity there is no in- group-out- group difference when it comes down to occupation or economic situation (Brewer,Gonsalkorale& van Dommelen, 2012).Those individuals,who consider themselves as members of a national community, define themselvesin terms of a positive side of the symbolic set of the country; those, who arenot considered as a part of the nation, usually are seen in a negative light(Alexander, 1992).
Some would even argue, that groups need a negative “others”(Zolberg& Woon, 1999). According to Alexander (1992) people are rationaland rule democracy rationally, thus, no emotional sense of belonging plays rolein the state ruling, therefore, no emotional attachment is a part of politicaldecision making. Minority groups andimmigrants are raising the question and testing the idea of who are a part ofthe society. It questions how different can “we” be, where are the boundariesbetween “us” and “them”. Since it is important for a functioning democracy tohave a common goal, these boundaries between the groups could be crossing,blurring or shifting (Zolberg& Woon, 1999).When talking aboutpolitical activity of the ethnic group, the main concerns are mostly about thecollective belonging, disadvantage and a permission to be different, whilehaving the same rights and responsibility as the majority has (Jenkins, 2008).