The Ethnic Project: Transforming Racial Fiction into Ethnic Factions

The Ethnic Project: Transforming Racial Fiction into Ethnic Factions

Stanford University Press
240 pages
7 illustrations
Cloth ISBN: 9780804757713
Paper ISBN: 9780804757720
E-bok ISBN: 9780804787284

Vilna Bashi Treitler, Professor of Sociology and Black and Hispanic Studies
Baruch College, City University of New York

Race is a known fiction—there is no genetic marker that indicates someone’s race—yet the social stigma of race endures. In the United States, ethnicity is often positioned as a counterweight to race, and we celebrate our various hyphenated-American identities. But Vilna Bashi Treitler argues that we do so at a high cost: ethnic thinking simply perpetuates an underlying racism.

In The Ethnic Project, Bashi Treitler considers the ethnic history of the United States from the arrival of the English in North America through to the present day. Tracing the histories of immigrant and indigenous groups—Irish, Chinese, Italians, Jews, Native Americans, Mexicans, Afro-Caribbeans, and African Americans—she shows how each negotiates America’s racial hierarchy, aiming to distance themselves from the bottom and align with the groups already at the top. But in pursuing these “ethnic projects” these groups implicitly accept and perpetuate a racial hierarchy, shoring up rather than dismantling race and racism. Ultimately, The Ethnic Project shows how dangerous ethnic thinking can be in a society that has not let go of racial thinking.


  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Racism and Ethnic Myths
  • 2. How Ethnic and Racial Structures Operate
  • 3. Ethnic Winners and Losers
  • 4. The Irish, Chinese, Italians, and Jews: Successful Ethnic Projects
  • 5. The Native Americans, Mexicans, and Afro-Caribbeans: Struggling Ethnic Projects
  • 6. African Americans and the Failed Ethnic Project
  • 7. The Future of U.S. Ethnoracism
  • Notes
  • Index
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