This chapter explores a deﬁning characteristic of ethnicity: ethnic communities and identities rely on social processes of classiﬁcation that simultaneously include some people and exclude others, and hence construct and reproduce social boundaries. Such boundary maintenance constitutes a form of both political and symbolic practice: it is profoundly political insofar as the construction and reproduction of ethnic identities needs to be understood in its wider contexts of unequally distributed power; and it is symbolic insofar as it makes use of repertoires of culturally shared meaning. Richard Jenkins, whose Rethinking Ethnicity (1997) will frame the discussion in this chapter, develops a crucial distinction that goes some way towards illuminating this two-sided process constitutive of ethnic identities. He distinguishes between social categorization and group identiﬁcation: social categorization refers to acts of ‘external deﬁnition’ and processes of labelling by institutions and social actors with ‘sufﬁcient power and authority’ to impose their classiﬁcations and allocate individuals to particular groupings (Jenkins 1997: 80); group identiﬁcation, on the other hand, is a group-internal process, whereby individuals deﬁne themselves and others as belonging to the same community, make more or less conscious use of shared meaning, and profess experiences of collective ‘belonging’. Jenkins (1997: 23) emphasizes that though the two phenomena are ‘inextricably linked’, they constitute ‘two analytically distinct
processes of ascription’: while social categorization captures the impact of powerful outsiders on (the construction and/or reiﬁcation of) ethnic groups, group identiﬁcation refers to the shared experience of cultural meaning, history and solidarity.