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Patrick Simon: Lighter than blood: ethnic enumeration in the era of equality policies

October 22, 2015 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm


Collecting ethnic and racial statistics is a contentious issue in a large number of countries around the world. For decades, ethnic and racial classifications have been conceived and used to segregate, build hierarchies and nurture racial and ethnic stratifications and inequalities. Moreover, ethnic and racial statistics have not only been used for evil purposes, their existence as such reflects a misconception of Human nature and social life and fosters a reification of ethnic and racial identities. As Zuberi puts it in his book on the (ab)use of racial statistics -“Thicker than blood”- the single existence of these types of classification convey a racist perception of humankind. This view that has been hegemonic among European social scientists has been challenged by the development of positive action policies which try to move from formal equality to more effective enforcement on the non discrimination paradigm. The need of data for antidiscrimination policies has then called for the collection of ethnic and racial statistics which would serve to redress and dismantle the sequels of former institutionalized racism (insidious though pervasive). Linked to these reversed objectives of ethnic and racial classifications (to protect and emancipate rather than dominate and stigmatize), the conception of these categories has moved from a primodialist paradigm to a constructivist approach assuming that race and ethnicity are indeed subjective and socially constructed concepts (and so the title of this paper: “Lighter than blood”). Yet the constructivist turn in ethnic and racial statistics raises a series of epistemological and methodological issues that the presentation will try to address.

Patrick Simon
Institut National d’Etudes Demographiques

Patrick Simon is Director of research at INED (Institut National d’Etudes Demographiques –National demographic institute) (F), where he heads the research unit “International Migration and Minorities” and is fellow researcher at the Center of European Studies (CEE) at Sciences Po. He is studying antidiscrimination policies, ethnic classification and the integration of ethnic minorities in European countries. He has chaired the scientific panel “Integration of immigrants” at the IUSSP (International Union for the Scientific Studies of Population) and was appointed at the Scientific Board of the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Commission in Vienna (2008-2013). He has edited with V.Piché (2012) a special issue of Ethnic and Racial Studies, « Accounting for ethnic and racial diversity: the challenge of enumeration » and with Nancy Foner (2015) Fear, Anxiety, and National Identity: Immigration and Belonging in North America and Western Europe, New York, Russell Sage Foundation.


October 22, 2015
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Event Category:


ARC Conference Room 5318
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016 United States


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