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Race, Ethnicity, Indigenous Peoples and Politics

L07(a) - The Politics of Race and Racialization: Interrogating ‘Racial Essentialism,’ Political Socialization, Gentrification and Participatory Budgeting

Date: Jun 4 | Time: 03:15pm to 04:45pm | Location: SCRF 1023

Chair/Président/Présidente : Lindsay Larios (Concordia University)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Abigail Bakan (University of Toronto)

Intersections of Race, Class and Citizenship in Participatory Democracy: Interrogating the Racial Dynamics of Participatory Budgeting: Laura Pin (York University)
Abstract: This paper uses participatory budgeting as an entry point to interrogate the relationship between race, class and citizenship, and practices of participatory democracy. Participatory budgeting is the allocation of a public budget by residents rather than elected officials or municipal staff. Proponents suggest participatory budgeting can reduce the inequities and power imbalances that dominate liberal democratic processes, as a practice grounded in a normative and procedural commitment to equity, which welcomes the participation of residents often excluded from other democratic forums (non-citizens and youth in particular). Existing research on participatory budgeting has primarily considered race on an individualist demographic level, a significant shortcoming in studying places like Chicago, where pervasive and structural race-based socioeconomic inequity persists. Drawing on critical race theories of colourblindness and racial neoliberalism (Goldberg, 2009; Omi and Winant, 2015) and qualitative data from three Chicago neighbourhoods, I argue that in Chicago heavy emphasis on the representation of Black and Latino residents in demographic measures of diversity obfuscate more complex racial dynamics that often reproduce barriers to equitable involvement for residents who are racialized and/or undocumented. At the same time, the democratic deficits of racial neoliberalism have made “diversity data” that position local policy-making processes as racially inclusive crucial in enhancing the legitimacy of existing structures of governance, often leading to elite reluctance to confront difficult racial dynamics. This research suggests attention to structural dynamics of race and racialization are necessary components to a robust assessment of the equity claims of participatory democratic processes.


Determinants of Genetic Essentialist Beliefs about Race: A Comparison of Canada and the United States: Wendy Roth (University of British Columbia), Sule Yaylaci (University of British Columbia), Jennifer Adkins (University of British Columbia)
Abstract: Recent scholarship that has begun to examine racial conceptualization – the public’s ideas about what race is and what it’s based on – has revealed a variety of perspectives held by scholars and laypersons alike. Social scientists typically subscribe to a constructivist perspective, which views races as groups created through social processes occurring in specific historical contexts. Yet many people express an essentialist perspective that locates race in biological traits that are seen as innate and genetically inherited. This view holds that each group has an essence – distinct traits at its core, such as certain skills or abilities – and it views races as fixed and unchanging. The essentialist perspective causes great concern because the view that races are genetically different often leads to the view that certain races are genetically inferior. Such views have been used to justify oppression, forced sterilization and eugenics, and genocide. However, few studies examine the extent of belief in racial essentialism, or its determinants, in a representative population, and even fewer do so in a comparative context. In part, such efforts are hampered by the lack of a widely-used measure that focuses on genetic essentialist beliefs about race. Using a newly developed scale, the Genetic Essentialism Scale for Race, we examine the extent of belief in racial essentialism among comparable populations of native-born White Americans and Canadians. We analyze the determinants of genetic essentialist beliefs in the two countries, and discuss potential reasons for the differences and similarities we observe in these contexts.


Residential Concentration and Political Socialization among Racialized Canadians: Stephen White (Carleton University), Luc Turgeon (University of Ottawa), Antoine Bilodeau (Concordia University), Ailsa Henderson (University of Edinburgh)
Abstract: This study employs a unique dataset to investigate the relationship between the sociodemographic composition of local communities and the development of norms of political participation among Canadians from racialized groups. Studies examining the political effects of ethnic and racial diversity at the local level typically focus on the electoral mobilization of racialized groups in local areas in which they have “strength in numbers” (Leighley, 2001). However, local communities are fundamentally social settings, and social networks have profound effects on participatory norms (Rolfe, 2012; Sinclair, 2012). To the extent that participatory norms are considered at all in studies of ethnic and racial minority groups, the absence of norms in communities with large racialized populations are thought to hinder political participation (Cho et al., 2006). Matching survey data from a sample of 1600 Canadians from “visible minority” backgrounds in the provinces of Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia with local community data from the 2011 National Household Survey, this study examines whether living in areas with higher concentrations of people from the same racial background helps or hinders the development of norms of civic duty among racialized Canadians.