Andreas Wimmer

Ethnic and Racial Studies, September 2008


This article offers a new taxonomy of how actors may change ethnic boundaries. I distinguish between five main strategies: to redraw a boundary by either expanding or limiting the domain of people included in one’s own ethnic category; to modify existing boundaries by challenging the hierarchical ordering of ethnic categories, or by changing one’s own position within a boundary system, or by emphasizing other, non-ethnic forms of belonging. The taxonomy claims to be exhaustive and accommodates a considerable number of historical and contemporary cases both from the developed and the developing world. It aims at overcoming the fragmentation of the literature along disciplinary and sub-disciplinary lines and prepares the ground for an agency-based comparative model of ethnic boundary making.