Sociology 304

Notes for January 22, 1998

A. Diversity in Population Trends in Canada

B. Definitional Issues Related to Nation, People, State, Nation-State, Ethnicity.

Note: References for these notes are at the end of the notes.

A. Diversity in Population Trends in Canada

Canada's Changing Immigrant Population (Statistics Canada, catalogue number 96-311E) notes "Immigration has played a role in creating a culturally diverse Canada" (p. 17) and titles the following section "Greater Diversity in the Canadian Mosaic."

The table, Selected ethnic origins, Canada, the provinces and territories, 1991 shows the distribution for more detailed groups for Canada and the western provinces. Note the difficulty of determining ethnicity because almost one-half of the Saskatchewan population notes multiple origins.

Immigration. 1951 - 10 leading source countries were Britain, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, France, U.S., Belgium, Yugoslavia, and Denmark. In 1996, they were Hong Kong, India, China, Taiwan, Philippines, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, United States, Great Britain, and Iran. Note that these ten leading countries accounted for 56% of all immigrants to Canada. See Top Ten Source Countries, 1994-1996. In the 1980s, immigration from Vietnam was also large and in the mid-1990s, there was considerable immigration from the countries in the former Yugoslavia.

Also note the shift in birthplaces for the immigrant population of Canada, as registered in the 1996 Census. See Immigrant population by place of birth and period of immigration, 1996 Census. There has been a considerable increase in the number of recent immigrants from Asian countries, the Caribbean, and Latin America, and a considerable decline in the numbers from European countries.

B. Definitional Issues Related to Nation, People, State, Ethnicity.

Basic to Kymlicka's analysis are concepts such as nation, nationalism, national minority, people, culture or national culture, ethnicity, polyethnicity, ethnic groups, and immigrant groups . Culture will be examined in greater detail later, although it is strongly connected to the other concepts. These terms and concepts have been subject to great practical and theoretical confusion, and they are important in the life and struggles of minority groups. The different approaches to defining and discussing these illustrate the manner in which different individuals and groups conceive of and analyse issues related to minority group social and political issues.

Kymlicka notes "according to the United Nations' Charter, 'all people have the right to self-determination'. However, the UN has not defined 'peoples', and it has generally applied the principle of self-determination only to overseas colonies, not internal national minorities" (p. 27). In the UN statement, the meaning of both people and self-determination are problematic, and subject to considerable argument - what does it mean to be a people, and what does self-determination imply. With respect to both Quebec and aboriginal people in Canada these are important issues.

Related to these terms are state and nation-state. Sometimes these mean the same thing, although the latter are more likely to invoke the idea of geographic territory. Further terms that need to be considered are citizenship, nationalism, and patriotism. Additional terms that enter the discussion are race, blood, and tribe and there are undoubtedly many other similar terms in English and in other languages.

Kymlicka does not discuss these as fully as he might, although in the process of presenting examples, many of the meanings and implications of these become apparent. The initial discussion is on pp. 11-26, where he makes his important distinction between national minorities and polyethnicity. Also note that while multiculturalism has sometimes been used to include cultural groups such as women, gays, or disabled people, in Multicultural Citizenship, Kymlicka does not include these new social movements as part of his analysis (p. 19).

1. Nation, People and State. Nation has sometimes been considered to be identical with state and these two concepts have become merged in nation-state. Hobsbawm notes that the development of nations was a relatively recent historical development. In the American and French revolutions, the meaning of nation was more or less the same, and during this period in the late eighteenth century and through much of the nineteenth century, "nation = state = people" was the common implication (Hobsbawm, p. 19). He notes that "early political discourse in the United States referred to "'the people', 'the union', 'the confederation', 'our common land', 'the public', 'public welfare', or 'the community' in order to avoid the centralizing and unitary implications of the term 'nation' against the rights of the federated states" (Hobsbawm, p. 18). Note that many of the national struggles during this period were against kings, lords, the aristocracy, or the church. Hobsbawm draws the conclusion that the nation was "the body of citizens whose collective sovereignty constituted them a state which was their political expression. For, whatever else a nation was, the element of citizenship and mass participation or choice was never absent from it" (Hobsbawm, pp. 18-19).

A state tends to be defined on a territorial or geographic basis and has a political meaning in terms of there being a government that governs this territory and the citizens in it. Citizenship is the means by which people are part of the state or are attached to it. That is, it is citizenship, rather than tradition or ancestry, that makes the individual a part of the state, and is the means by which the individual belongs to the state. Modern uses of the state, or nation-state, generally take this approach and for individuals, the meaning of state implies citizenship, along with citizenship rights, responsibilities, and obligations. This also means that within the rules established by the state concerning immigration, everyone in the state is a citizen, not just those having the proper ancestry. At the level of the state, there is government, political authority, a judicial system, a clearly defined geographic territory, and sovereignty of the state. One of the problems is that many of the citizens may consider themselves to be part of the state more through tradition and ancestry than through citizenship, thus confusing nation and state.

The problem with using nation as identical to state is that this ignores many of the cultural aspects, the language, traditions, customs, history of a people. In fact, state as defined in the last paragraph ignores the meaning of people, because there is no reason why people and state need have any connection with each other. Multination states can exist (Canada, Belgium, China) and peoples can cut across several nation-states. The Kurds are an example of the latter, with many members in Turkey, Iran, and Iraq, and some in Syria and Armenia. Kurdistan may exist as a nation, but it is not a state. Hobsbawm notes "there was no logical connection between the body of citizens of a territorial state on one hand, and the identification of a 'nation' on ethnic, linguistic or other grounds or of other characteristics which allowed collective recognition of group membership" (Hobsbawm, p. 19).

While making nation identical with state may have made sense in the period of the building of the great nations such as Italy, France, Germany, Britain, the United States, and Canada, this ignored smaller groups who could rightly be considered peoples, but who did not have the means to form a state. This may have been because of the small size of the group, because of oppression of the group, or because of the assimilation of the group. Hobsbawm notes that nationalism and national movements in the period 1880-1914 developed three characteristics. (i) abandonment of the threshold principle of size - any body of people could be considered a nation, (ii) ethnicity and language became the central, decisive, and perhaps only definition of nationhood, and (iii) nationalism sometimes was reactionary and became identified with patriotism and national symbols such as the flag. (See Hobsbawm, p. 102).

2. Nation. This sets the stage for the list of definitions on the handout. The first is by the Austrian socialist, Otto Bauer, from 1907. His definition, along with that of Stalin's, was an attempt to deal with the problem of oppressed peoples or peoples who wanted recognition.

Bauer. ... the totality of people who are united by a common fate so that they possess a common (national) character. The common fate is ... primarily a common history; the common national character involves almost necessarily a uniformity of language. (Davis, p. 150).

Bauer's concern was "how the several nationalities in the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary could receive their rights without exercising the ultimate sanction of secession" (Davis, p. 149). Stalin took a similar approach, adding territory to the list of characteristics of a nation.

Stalin. A nation is an historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological makeup manifested in a community of culture. (Quote from J. V. Stalin, 1913, from Davis, p. 163).

Nationality ... is not a racial or tribal phenomenon. It has five essential features: there must be a stable, continuing community, a common language, a distinct territory, economic cohesion, and a collective character. It assumes positive political form as a nation under definite historical conditions, belonging to a specific epoch, that of the rise of capitalism and the struggles of the rising bourgeosie under feudalism. (Based on J. V. Stalin, Marxism and the National Question, 1913 from Bottomore, p. 344).

In contrast to Bauer, Stalin was concerned with incorporating some of the national groups into what would be the Soviet Union. In general, he was opposed to national-cultural autonomy, looking on it as a route to secession. This may explain why he adds territory to the list of characteristics. While he favoured national self-determination, he generally looked on nationalism as bourgeois. For both Bauer and Stalin, the ideas of character and psychological makeup are problematic. Because of his stature within the Soviet Union, Stalin's definition has often been repeated and used in other parts of the world. National liberation movements in Africa and Asia, influenced by socialism and communism, have often tried to bend their characteristics to match the definition of Stalin. Also note how close Kymlicka's definition of nation is to Stalin's.

Kymlicka. ... 'nation' means a historical community, more or less institutionally complete, occupying a given territory or homeland, sharing a distinct language and culture (p. 11).

The approaches of Bauer, Stalin, and Kymlicka tend to be approaches based on an a relatively objective set of characteristics, although each has a subjective component (national character, psychological makeup, or culture). While some aspects of these definitions are not so clear, it is almost like there is a checklist of characteristics that must be met to establish the definition of a people or nation.

3. Imagined Communities or Groups. At the opposite extreme of the types of definition is the approach of Benedict Anderson. This approach is similar in some ways to Weber's definition of an ethnic group. Weber noted that practically any characteristic (skin colour, belief in a common descent, adherence to teachings of a charismatic leader) could become the defining point of an ethnic group. Weber's definition applies more to ethnic groups within a nation-state than to the whole nation, and he was more concerned with social action of a specific form than is Anderson. But the implication of both is that any characteristic could become the basis for formation of a group or people.

Anderson. ... it is an imagined political community - and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. ... all communities larger than primordial villages of face-to-face contact (and perhaps even these) are imagined. Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined. (Anderson, p. 6).

For Anderson, the notion of imagined is important. National identity is not something that is inherent in the individual, but is "formed and transformed within and in relation to representation. We only know what it is to be 'English' because of the way 'Englishness' has come to be represented, as a set of meanings, by English national culture. ... a nation is not only a political entity but something which produces meanings - a system of cultural representation. ... People ... participate in the idea of the nation as represented by its national culture" (Hall, p. 612).

Anderson notes that the nation is imagined because "the members of even the smallest nation will never know each of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion" (Anderson, p. 6). It is limited because it is smaller than the whole of humanity, and it is sovereign in the sense of having sovereignty rather than being under the control of a king or external power. It may also be sovereign in the sense that the members of the nation imagine themselves to be able to exercise some control or direction over it, that is, the individuals are free, have rights, and are capable of exercising decision-making power within the nation. Finally, it is a community in that "the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship" even though there may be much inequality within it (Anderson, p. 7).

4. National Culture. While the nation, people, and national culture may be imagined, these do become important for some or all individuals. Whether or not this becomes part of individual or group identity varies considerably by individual and group, but there is no doubt that national culture is a way of thinking and talking about (i) ourselves, (ii) our relationships with others, and (iii) our relationship with the nation-state as a whole. For some, this may take on a very strong meaning and national identity may lead to patriotism or national chauvinism. Or it can take on a less political and more cultural meaning.

Stuart Hall notes five main ways in which the imagined community may emerge. See Hall, pp. 613-615 for a fuller description.

Regardless of the truth or falsehood of the above, these stories, myths, traditions, and common ancestry do have a powerful effect on people, and for many people do provide a source of culture, a way of connecting oneself to the wider society of which they are part. Kymlicka also shows how such culture is important for people as a means of organizing their lives and providing a context of choice.

5. National Minority. These different approaches may help us determine what a national minority is. Kymlicka notes how many countries wish to deny that they have national minorities and may try to claim that the national minority is just another ethnic group (p. 22). In Canada it is not really possible to deny this and by any of these definitions, aboriginal people in Canada and Quebecois would seem to be nations, although Quebec itself may not be. This, of course, still leaves out the issue of exactly which characteristics do constitute those that are decisive, and it also does not answer the question of what types of rights these nations should have. Kymlicka notes that the group may define itself on the basis of race or descent, but such claims are difficult to establish, and with considerable intermarriage, do not seem correct. What he means when talking about national minorities is "cultural groups" (p. 23). He further notes that "descent-based approaches to national membership have obvious racist overtone, and are manifestly unjust" (p. 23). That is, membership would be denied to those without the proper genetic or ancestral credentials, and this is exclusionary. If the definition of nation is cultural, then membership in the nation should be open to "anyone, regardless of race of colour, who is willing to learn the language and history of the society and participate in its social and political institutions" (p. 23). Early aboriginal society seemed to be like this, although descent now seems to be the favoured definition of many aboriginal groups. Note Jeffrey Simpson on the 50 to 60 aboriginal nations (Globe and Mail, February 27, 1997) although he does not indicate how open to membership these are. For Simpson, two of the major problems are (i) viability of very small national minorities, and (ii) urban aboriginals, who are unlikely to be able to develop self-government.

For Kymlicka, national minorities can emerge on the basis of voluntarism or force. A voluntary federation of different national groups can create a multination state, and the different nations need not be minorities, but could be joined on the basis of equality. Switzerland and Belgium are cited as the two main examples of this (p. 13), where the various groups have primarily allegiance to the nation-state, not the national group.

More likely there was some element of coercion or force, so that the national minority has been included in the nation-state in some involuntary manner. Aboriginal people in Canada, Hispanics in the southwest of the United States, and Basques in Spain are examples of this. Over time, the minority group may assimilate, and in Europe this has often happened (e.g. France). Kymlicka notes that forced assimilation has often not worked well, and many of these national minorities have not given up their culture. On p. 79, Kymlicka points out how some Indian groups in the United States have persisted in the face of limits on the use of their language and customs, and "their status as self-governing 'domestic dependent nations' is now more firmly recognized. The determination they have shown in maintaining their existence as distinct cultures, despite these enormous economic and political pressures, shows the value they attach to retaining their cultural membership."

6. Ethnic Groups. In contrast to national minorities are ethnic groups. While Kymlicka never really defines these, his definition would be little different from the standard definitions. He generally considers them to be immigrant groups or to emerge from immigrants with a common origin (p. 30).

A definition of ethnicity may be even more complicated than that of nation, although generally of less importance. The standard definitions are those of Gordon and Dashefsky, with Driedger providing a useful summary approach. Note that Driedger is one of the major sociologists to write in the area of ethnicity and ethnic relations in Canada.

Gordon. ... a group of individuals with a shared sense of peoplehood based on presumed shared sociocultural experience and/or similar physical characteristics. This includes national, linguistic, religious, and racial groups. (Based on Milton M. Gordon, Assimilation in American Life, 1964, from Driedger, p. 136).

Dashefsky. Group identification is "a generalized attitude involving a personal attachment to a group and a positive orientation toward being a member of a group. Therefore, ethnic identification takes place when the group in question is one with whom the individual believes he has a common ancestry based on shared individual characteristics and/or shared sociocultural experiences." (Arnold Dashefsky, Ethnic Identity in Society, 1975, from Driedger, pp. 136 - 137).

Driedger. In our discussion of ethnic identification we shall touch on six factors: ecological territory, ethnic culture, ethnic institutions, historical symbols, ideology, and charismatic leadership. (Driedger, p. 143).

For Kymlicka, these definitions are to be attached to immigration, because Kymlicka considers immigrant groups to become ethnic groups. A variety of immigrant groups coming to a country creates a polyethnic society. While we may consider these new immigrants to bring a different culture with them, and maintain a considerable portion of that culture, this has not meant "the establishment of distinct and institutionally complete societal cultures alongside the anglophone society" (p. 78). Rather, with industrialization, standardized education, an "official" language used in government agencies, and the importance of literacy in contemporary society, it is difficult for these new groups to maintain a separate language for all aspects of life for very long. Ethnic enclaves may assist in this, but it is likely that a second or third generation will wish to participate in the institutions of the country in which they live. These individuals have no particular attachment elsewhere.

7. Unequal Relationships. Peter Li of the University of Saskatchewan Department of Sociology presents a different approach to the study and examination of ethnicity.

Li. Another approach to race and ethnicity is to examine them as consequences of unequal relationships, produced and maintained by differential power between a dominant and a subordinate group. According to this view, racial and ethnic groups are constructed on the basis of social relationships and are not based on genetic factors or primordial features. The focus is on the institutional framework within which groups are defined as racial or ethnic and how social interactions are organized accordingly. (Li, p. 23).

Like Weber and Anderson, Li looks on culture as flexible and changing, not as primordial, genetic, or racial. More than these authors though, he focuses on inequality and oppression, looking on these in the countries of origin and destination. For example, the Vietnamese in Vietnam had a particular culture historically, but French and U. S. imperialism in Vietnam has had some effect on the character of Vietnamese culture. Further, the war and the voyage to Canada, often disrupted with periods in refugee camps, also had its effects on the Vietnamese who came to Canada. Finally, the Vietnamese who came to Canada were not able to recreate their societal culture, with all the cultural practices and institutions they had in Vietnam. Rather, they began to find a place within the Canadian social structure, a structure having considerable economic and ethnic inequality. The manner in which they have integrated into this social structure and the manner in which they are viewed by others in the social structure constitute the "culture" of Vietnamese-Canadians. Li also emphasizes the degree of variation in culture within each of the ethnic groups, arguing that there may be as much variety within each of these cultures as there is between the various cultures.

8. Visible Minority. In Canada, visible minority has come to acquire an official meaning for purposes of employment equity legislation. Further, this designation was requested on the 1996 Census of Canada. The definition is:

Persons who are non-white in colour or non-Caucasian in race, other than Aboriginal people. These minorities are divided into ten groups: Blacks, Chinese, Filipino, other Pacific Islanders, Indo-Pakistani, Japanese, Korean, Southeast Asians, West Asians and Arabs, and Latin Americans.

References for Notes of January 22, 1998:

Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities: Reflection on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, London, Verso, 1991.

Bottomore, Tom, ed., A Dictionary of Marxist Thought, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1983.

Davis, Horace B., Nationalism and Socialism: Marxist and Labor Theories of Nationalism to 1917, New York, Monthly Review Press, 1967.

Driedger, Leo, The Ethnic Factor: Identity in Diversity, Toronto, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1989.

Hall, Stuart "The Question of Cultural Identity," in Stuart Hall et. al., Modernity: An Introduction to Modern Societies, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Blackwell, 1996.

Hobsbawm, E. J., Nations and Nationalism Since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality, Cambridge, England, Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Li, Peter S., Ethnic Inequality in a Class Society, Toronto, Thompson Educational Publishing, 1988.

Synnott, Anthony and David Howes, "Canada's Visible Minorities: Identity and Representation," in Vered Amit-Talai and Caroline Knowles, Re-Situating Identities: The Politics of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture, Peterborough, Broadview Press, 1996.

Notes from January 22, 1998 class. Last edited on January 22, 1998.

Back to Sociology 304 home page.