Механизм производства этнических границ
The article elaborates on the symbolic nature of ethnic borders. An ethnic border is a symbolic marker and a symbolic way of organizing social differences between groups. The article examines borders as a tool for the production of ethnic groups. The initial assumption is that, as soon as identity is an attitude but not a property, belonging to an ethnic group is a result of social organization, self- attribution, and determination by others. The production of borders serves to satisfy the basic needs of individuals for identification, both self- and external. Borders are built based on a commonly shared symbol. The choice of criteria for differentiation is determined by the context, and not by any “objec- tive” differences. Ethnic borders are of “selective” and relative nature. An ethnic border becomes real and productive only when the differences on which it is based are perceived as significant and used by actors to explain social interactions. Ethnic borders are related to interactions and have a symbolic nature. Therefore, borders function and organize social practices between delimited groups. The over- all mechanism of the construction of ethnic borders is as follows. First, any set of individuals can be divided according to characteristics that are meaningful and significantly different from another set of individuals. The border is built according to the criterion of content and significance. Second, these differences are objective, as they can be listed. At the same time, they are subjective as they will not play a significant differentiating role outside the given context and the perception by the actors. Third, borders are effective to the extent they impose on the perception of actors and the perception of others. Thus, the production of ethnic borders is a balance between perception and structural social activity. The consequences of ethnic distinction–ethnic categories–have significant consequences both at the individual level and at the organizational or social level.