The Concept of Ethnicity and its Relevance for Biographical Learning

  • Ursula Apitzsch


This essay argues that it is not sufficient to show that ethnicity is constructed; it is also necessary to show how the mysterious dynamics of ethnicity work and to identify, in particular, their consequences for the possibility of societal participation versus exclusion and the ways of biographical learning. It gives insights into the history of the concept of ethnicity as ethnic belief according to Max Weber’s constructivist sociology. In a historical digression to Kant it demonstrates how enlightenment and the idea of participation by contract can occur simultaneously with a naturalizing use of ascriptive categories of belonging for members of the population who are considered to be excluded by their “nature” from human development. Today, ethnicity may also be consciously appropriated in a positive way in order to pay tribute to the historical positioning and achievement of marginalized groups and individuals who succeeded in reversing ethnicizing processes of identification and stratification, giving them their own meaning, and so reinterpreting them biographically. In conclusion, this paper argues that, instead of speaking about ethnicity without groups (Brubaker), one should speak about ethnic groups without ethnic individuals.


Swedish Society Position Position Greek City State Ethnic Position Turkish Migration Background 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.FB 03 GesellschaftswissenschaftenJ.W. Goethe-Universität FrankfurtFrankfurt am MainGermany

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