Csaba Szaló and Eleonóra Hamar
Vietnamese ethnic markets for customers of the given ethnic identities.Finally, we can mention specific ethno-economic institutions such as small Arab exchange offices, Vietnamese and Chinese buffets with beer andnoodles and networks of so-called “clients” co-ordinating thousands of semi-legal Ukrainian construction workers.The above mentioned discourses and institutions do not only demonstratethe existence of various ethnic collectivities but, at the same time, reinforcethe ethnic identity of persons who make use of them. It is from thisperspective that we will focus here on the formation of social identities of minority groups in the ethnically diverse social space of the Czech Republic.Rather than concentrating on the demographic description of ethnically defined groups and populations we will instead map the role theseinstitutions and discourses play in the processes of ethnic identity formation(Brubaker 1996).
We will focus on the practical constitution of ethnicity asa constitutive element of ethnic identities.First, terminology should be clarified. In this text, we use the term“ethnic identity” as a
category of analysis
(Brubaker 1992). We apply thiscategory in order to understand how identities are formed by institutionsand discourses which represent ethnic groups, minorities, and nations.Ethnic identities – similarly to religious or sub-cultural identities – can bedefined as specific forms of social identities which
persons as elementsof specific
(Schutz, Luckmann 1973; Berger, Luckmann 1967).Consequently, we treat terms such as “ethnic group”, “minority” and“nation” as
categories of practice
. From the sociological point of view these practical categories representing differences and distinctionsare not acceptable as interpretative, analytical categories for sociologicalunderstanding (Bourdieu 1992; Bourdieu, Wacquant 1992). Being usually codified in political and public discourses, as well as in common sense, they should be treated rather as signs of power relationships than as adequatedescriptions of social reality.
1The social reality of these institutions and discourses is a more relevant indicatorof ethnic diversity than official statistics about the size of ethnically categorisedpopulations. Under social conditions of globalisation it is not useful to conceivesociety as a population of permanently settled citizens. When we speak about Czechsociety, we have to take account also of foreigners with a long-term residence,illegal and semi-legal foreigners as well as short time visitors like tourists. Semi-legal workers and short-term visitors as individuals may only spend days or months“in the society,” nevertheless, as a social force, as a cultural phenomenon and aneconomic input they form a permanent part of local institutions and discourses.