Shopping for Identity: The Marketing of Ethnicity

Shopping for Identity: The Marketing of Ethnicity

Marilyn Halter

“It becomes more and more plausible to speak of a shift to an increasingly optional ethnicity among, for example, Chinese- or Mexican-Americans in the same way that Italian- and Irish-Americans can be selective. In actual practice, the theoretical underpinnings that explain the role of ethnicity in the lives of whites as distinct from those of non whites turns out to be faulty. As the nation evolves into an increasingly mestizo sociocultural entity, the separate European and non-European trajectories of identity construction edge toward collapse. In one huge arena of practice, the marketplace, such differences ultimately become irrelevant. The market is the great leveler. From kente cloth to claddagh rings, the same appeals to invented and voluntary ethnic identities are being made; the same emotional purse strings are being tugged.”

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