Living Apart together

Volgend op Belang van terug te grijpen naar essentiële waarden kunnen wij enkele artikelen van Tim Peeters Leuven onder de loep nemen. Hij gaat dieper in op de verhoudingen van allochtonen en autochtonen op zijn webblog met de presentatie van de vroegere tekst omtrent de Latrelatie die ook hier in België heerst.

Het is belangrijk hoe wij met de verscheidene groepen in ons land willen mee omgaan en onze houding nu zal de gevolgen voor later inhouden. Remediëring kunnen wij vermijden door op voorhand de zaken juist te onderzoeken en zo goed mogelijk trachten aan te pakken.


Oude tekst deel 1

Boris Snauwaert, Norbert Vanbeselaere, Bart Duriez,

Filip Boen, and Dirk Hutsebaut


The challenging character of a society is often pushed to extremes when it comes to the relationship between autochthons and immigrants. A crucial concept to grasp this relation seems to be ethnicity, which constitutes an increasingly vigorous dimension in everyday life. It is quite clear that the ethnic identities of both autochthons and immigrants will influence their relation. At the same time, this relation itself will influence these identities.

In this chapter we will study the ethnic identity dynamics that come into play in the context of immigrants in a host society. Moreover, we will demonstrate that ethnicity is often strongly interwoven with religiosity. Roosens has offered a vast amount of empirical research in this domain. We will briefly present some aspects of his work that are relevant to our topic here. Then, we will present a social-psychological framework to analyze the topic. The objective of this chapter can be  interpreted as a presentation and comparison of two approaches to ethnicity dynamics: an anthropological and a social-psychological approach. The social-psychological theorizing offers a conceptual framework that allows to systematize certain anthropological findings. On the other hand the anthropological insights constitute a healthy counterweight for the, occasionally, abstract and strict social-psychological theorizing. We will argue that both approaches are complementary. The integration of both approaches will eventually lead to more profound insights into the role of ethnic identity dynamics in intergroup relations.

Roosens on ethnicity The creative character of ethnicity Throughout his work, Roosens has elaborated on the dynamic and creative character of ethnicity (1982, 1988, 1989, 1994, 1998). From the start, he has reacted against the concept of ethnic groups as being merely passive bearers of differing cultures. In this vision the persistent contact between these ethnic groups would gradually result in the disappearance of cultural differences. As stated above, we LiberAmicorum E. Roosens 2 are however confronted with a rise in the salience of ethnicity. Roosens finds an explanation for this tendency in the instrumental function of ethnicity in the contemporary world: ethnicity has become a strategic tool to pursue economic interests in a more effective way than e.g., class, nation or religion.

Due to the dominant ideology of equality, no government can refuse an ethnic group the right to its own identity without being branded as racist. ‘If they refuse to favor the less  economically advantaged or the members of a trade union, they are, at best, ‘capitalists’ or ‘conservatives’” (Roosens, 1989). Thereby, Roosens joins Barth’s (1969) emphasis on the  distinction between the ethnic group and the ‘objective’, perceivable culture. An ethnic group is a type of social organization in which the participants themselves make use of certain traits from their past, a past which may or may not be historically verifiable. Roosens distinguishes two constituting features of an ethnic group, and as a consequence of ethnic identity.

Two aspects of ethnic identity An important purpose of the process of self-definition by selecting traits out of the totality of the observable culture, is to create a social border between oneself and similar groups by means of a few cultural emblems and values and, by this, making oneself distinct from others (Barth, 1969). For the interpretation of this process Roosens goes back to a more psychological analysis of identity (De Vos, 1975; Epstein, 1978). In this respect the identification with an ethnic category is said to provide the person with psychological security, a feeling of belonging. Of course, each individual belongs to several social units at the same time: humankind, a continent, a nation, an ethnic group, a religious group, a family, and so on. The individual is at least cognitively aware of his membership of different categories. This is not to say that s/he values them all in the same way: some of these memberships will be more important for him/her than others and consequently s/he will identify with them more strongly.

One can say that there is a hierarchy of identities for each person, e.g., a man or woman can see him/herself in the first place as a parent, secondly as a Catholic, Flemish, and so on. This hierarchy has a dynamic character: it can change in the course of time or one social identity can simply be more relevant than others in a specific context. Depending on the social identity that is relevant in a particular situation, one will feel similar to others who belong to the same unit and different from others who are members of comparable, but different units. In this way, ethnic identity creates an ingroup as well as an outgroup: it combines the source of differentiation with an internal source of identification.

In his more recent work Roosens (1994, 1998) stresses that the creation of a social border is not the sole source of an ethnic  identity: the role of the reference to one’s origin needs to be considered as well, moreover it should be considered as the prime source of ethnic identity. The ethnic border creates a distinction between people, while the origin creates similarity for people within a group. In this respect Roosens uses the ‘family-origin metaphor’: belonging to an ethnic group is like being rooted in a Living apart together? 3 family. This sense of continuity with the past logically precedes the ethnic border as a foundation of the ethnic identity. What a person is in ethnic  terms has more to do with this reference to one’s origin than with ethnic borders. It is exactly this genealogical dimension which differentiates an ethnic group from other social groups like linguistic or religious groups.

The intergroup context of immigrants Roosens (1994) states that both sources can be, in turn, more important than the other, depending on the historical circumstances and situations. At the same time he suggests a primordial position for the idea of the reference to the origin in the conceptualization of ethnicity. The dialectic relation between these two sources of ethnicity can be illustrated clearly in the context of an immigrant group in a host society. Both groups, the immigrants and the natives, can be said to refer to the origin or use the family-origin metaphor in their relations, each in their own specific way.

Roosens states that in the immigrant group the family metaphor will be more important than the creation of social borders. Some patterns of immigrant culture which function as ethnic markers and as elements of an ethnic boundary do so only in a secondary fashion: their primary meaning and function is to be understood from the perspective of the relationship between immigrants and their homeland or own immigrant communities (Roosens, 1994). In our opinion, these statements seem to apply mainly to the first generation immigrants. As far as the second generation is concerned, the boundary dynamics fully come into play, for the ties with the family in the country of their parents and with its culture have been diluted considerably (Roosens, 1994).

In this way, Roosens demonstrates the importance of the construction of origins and their maintenance in the hearts of the allochthons. At the same time he demonstrates that origins are also considered important by the natives for they determine the status ascribed to various groups of immigrants. Let us focus on the immigrant situation in Belgium. An interesting observation with respect to this matter is the dominant restriction of the label ‘migrants’ (which automatically implicates the idea ‘migrant-problems’) to non-European immigrants, more specifically Turks and Moroccans. This linguistical custom reveals the intergroup attitude of the natives: ‘they’ are different from ‘us’, in this respect ‘us’ also incorporates the European persons living in Belgium (Italians, Spaniards, etc.). This can only be understood by the reference to their own origin: as Europeans and Christians they are seen as ‘totally different’ from ‘the Muslims.’ Reference to one’s origin  (both the immigrant’s as their own) functions in this way as a ground for representing cultural, and especially religious  differences as absolute: social borders are created. In this way the creation of ethnic boundaries can be considered as emanating rather from the natives than from the (first  generation) immigrants.

LiberAmicorum E. Roosens 4 A social-psychological approach: Social identity theory

It is interesting to compare these ideas, as they were developed from an anthropological point of view, with a social- psychological approach. In the next paragraphs we will outline one of the most influential (judging from the amount of research it has instigated) social-psychological theories of the last  decades: the social identity theory. We will show that these different lines of thinking, who are traditionally not bound to cross, can be put in a dialogue which will reveal an interesting picture: they are compatible and at the same time they form a critical counter-weight for each other. More specifically, social identity theory gives a clear and systematic analysis of the  different psychological processes involved in the creation and the dynamics of the existence of social groups. This analysis can be considered as a profound elaboration of the social-psychological foundation of ethnicity, which Roosens touches upon only briefly. At the same time, social identity theory elaborates on the implications of group membership for  intergroup relations. On the other hand, the anthropological approach offers important insights and observations to  complement the rather abstract theorizing of the social identity theory.


Hij vervolgt: Following the theoretical insights developed by Tajfel (1978, 1981) and by Turner (1981, 1982), Brown (1988) arrived at the following definition: ‘a group exists when two or more people define themselves as members of it and when its existence is recognized by at least one other. The ‘other’ in this context is some person or group of people who do not so define themselves.’ According to this definition, a group becomes a  social-psychological reality when a number of people share the perception that some of them belong to the same social unit  while others do not belong to that unit. Furthermore, these perceptions of differential group membership do have important and predictable consequences for the attitudes and behavior  towards ingroup and outgroup members. More specifically, the mere fact of belonging to one social group rather than to another does easily result in ingroup favoritism and outgroup  discrimination. The social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979) has been developed in order to explain why people become  attached to the groups they belong to and why these group memberships afflict the relationships with other groups within the social environment.

The social identity perspective departs from the observation that people do spontaneously perceive their social environment as consisting of a relatively limited number of mutually exclusive categories

> Lees verder op Tim Peeters Leuven zijn Gezondheid en welzijn.

About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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1 Response to Living Apart together

  1. Pingback: One can buy a lot in the supermarket, but not hope | From guestwriters

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