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In what ways is 'race' socially and spatially constructed?

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Introduction

In what ways is `race' socially and spatially constructed? The Question of `Race', what is it? Firstly to understand how race is socially and spatially constructed we must first understand what race actually is. Alex Watson an opinion columnist for the Western Herald stated that race does not and never has existed, "It is an almost entirely social construct with extremely minor differences in external appearance at its root. The entire concept of race is a misbegotten stepchild of 19th century pseudoscience......." (Western Herald Online: [1]http://www.westernherald.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2004/01/14/4004b27 924aab) 11/03/04. Today race is described is a popular marker of human difference based upon; physical criteria of a person i.e. skin colour, national heritage, cultural affiliation and history, ethnic classification, and the needs of a population socially, politically and economically (R.J Johnston. etal 2000, Dictionary of Human Geography). However, throughout time the perception of race has varied from person to person and the understanding of race in society has also changed considerably. The History of `Race' as a Social Construction As European powers attempted to widen their lands and empires by exploration trips and voyages, confrontation between the white Europeans and the indigenous people of these foreign lands highlighted differenced in appearance. Studies of 15^th Century contacts with Native Americans helped Europeans develop a notion of distinctiveness. Europeans began to see themselves as unique (Allen and Unwin, Australia Independent Book Publisher: http://www.alenunwin.com/acedemic/Race.pdf) ...read more.

Middle

in Western Europe, beginning in the wake of post-war reconstruction, and continuing in some sectors of the economy to the present day (United Kingdom Parliament: [7]http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/ld200001/ldsel ect/ldeucom/64/6409.htm#n29) 16/03/04. Although more and more ethnic minorities were beginning to integrate within a White society there still remained a lot of tension and discrimination towards the ethnic peoples. Spatial Construction of `Race' Minorities were seen as undesirable and therefore became spatially isolated. This was not just the case in Britain but also world wide. Ethnic minorities were discriminated against and this had a great influence on where the populations of minorities settled. Many well known Ethnic Groups include African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Italians, Jews, Mexicans, Vietnamese and Chinese in American cities; Afro Caribbean, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Irish of British cities; Algerians, Central Africans and Spaniards in French cities and Turks and Croats in German cities (Paul Knox; 1995, Urban Social Geography an Introduction, 3^rd Edition). When immigrants arrive to a new place they look for work, cheap accommodation, availability of resources and the lack of need for private transport, all of which are found in inner city areas. A well known example can be seen with Chicago in the 1920's and 1930's. Minorities from Germany, Scandinavia, Ireland, Italy and Lithuania established themselves around the CBD of Chicago in order to find the cheapest accommodation. Eventually the CBD was surrounded by a patchwork of different Ethnic settlements. ...read more.

Conclusion

Ethnoburbs coexist along with traditional ethnic ghettos/enclaves in inner cities in contemporary American society"......... (Wei Li, Ethnoburb versus Chinatown: Two Types of Urban Ethnic Communities in Los Angeles, Department of Geography & Asian American Studies Institute University of Connecticut Storrs) Similar processes are evident in Britain but racial difference tends to influence segregation of minorities. For example the Japanese population of London have move to outer suburbs of the city highlighting social integration, this is also evident within the Pakistani and East Asian populations as well, most of whom obtain well paid jobs and are educated in private schools. Whereas the proportion of Blacks in London still live in poorer inner city areas categorized by low income families. Many therefore believe that Blacks of inner city areas need to go through the process of suburbanization to show social integration. Conclusion It is clear that since the earliest time whenever the question of race was though of, ideas have changed considerably. Today race still creates a category by which we can identify ourselves and maintain cultural identity. Everybody likes to think as themselves as being unique and different to each other, it gives us a feeling of pride. That is why I believe the question of race was first brought about by the early European explorers, they wanted to see themselves as unique to other people. Therefore I believe that race will always be evident in society and will exist forever, no person likes to feel inferior to another, many not equal but better to others. So the construction of `Race' still continues. ...read more.

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