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Black European identity and social categorization : is there an alternative methodology ?

Philippe Castel

After introducing the function of social categorization in defining social identity process and a few experimental results collected in France on white participants, we will analyze the meaning of black identity in Europe and will argue in favour of ecological methodologies.

First of all, we presume that according to the SCT (Tajfel & Turner, 1979; Turner, 1987), social identities emerge in the frame of social categorization process. Second, we presume that the identity of minority groups depends on the intergroup relations that exist in each European country. Moreover, the meaning of social category varies according to the categorization criteria at stake (ethnic categories, community, or social status). These partitions induce specific social attitudes and also generate specific forms of discrimination (Castel & Lacassagne, 2004, 2005). The social identity of one group depends on the characteristics of the different subsets within the social group. Thus, in each country, members of the black community do not have the same identity according to the nature of the different other groups. The discourse analysis of white French participants toward black targets (Castel & Lacassagne, 2005; Ndobo, Gardair & Lacassagne, 2005; Ndobo & Gardair, 2005) enabled to higlight attitudes linked to Blacks’ salience and, to some extent, to the fact that they are considered as immigrants without taking into account their ethnic category.

The European construction generates identity disruptions made up of the displacement from cultural to category identities. The advent of Europe as a possible source of identification tends to recreate international sub-categories to the detriment of classical intra-national categorizations. Thus, transnational partitions (such as employers versus employees through European strikes) coexist in parallel to national partitions (such as French versus Germans). The Blacks’ positioning in this context might affect the nature of intranational and international group relations whereas the European identity is not well-established yet (at least for the uninformed citizen).

In the frame of intergroup relations refering to the identity of the individual, the collection of data for a scientific aim can be easily interpreted as ideogically oriented. In this way, the investigation in this matter need to be as neutral as possible. Indeed, without underestimating the standardization and the ecological validity principles, we suggest to deal with a discourse analysis methodology for collecting data which seems to be closer to natural situations.


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CASTEL, P., & LACASSAGNE, M.-F. (sous presse, 2005). Les partitions discriminantes dans la négociation du contrat de communication. Bulletin de Psychologie, numéro spécial « Catégorisation et Langage », 58(3).

Ndobo, A., & Gardair, E. (2005). Le discours de la discrimination en situation de sélection professionnelle: vers de nouvelles formes d’expression de la différenciation intergroupe (Submitted)

Ndobo, A., Gadair, E. & Lacassagne , M.-F. (sous presse, 2005). Accessibilité des catégories et évaluation sociale : à propos du biais pro-endogroupe. Bulletin de Psychologie, numéro spécial « Catégorisation et Langage », 58(3).

Tajfel, H., & Turner, J.C. (1979). An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. In W.G. Austin & S. Worschel (Eds), The social psychology of intergroup relations (pp 33-48). Monterey: Brooks/Cole.

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