Toward an Ethnoracial Ontology for the Study of Race and Ethnicity: The Case of African Americans and Black Immigrants in the United States by Mosi Adesina Ifatunji (2024)

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Sociology of Race and Ethnicity


One of the central issues in the study of race and ethnicity is ontology. That is, after decades of scientific inquiry, we continue to debate definitions for race and ethnicity. Broadly speaking, the questions that frame this debate are: what is race, what is ethnicity, are they the same, or are they different? As this debate continues, many are using an amalgamated term—ethnoracial. However, there is yet no formal definition or ontology for this term. Indeed, most seem to use it to avoid getting entangled in the often contentious and still ongoing debate on ontologies for race and ethnicity. That is, most seem to use this term to avoid questions and concerns associated with the underlying ‘nature’ of these group formations and, instead, seek to focus the readers’ attention on their descriptions of and explanations for the associated intergroup identities, conflicts and disparities. Within this context, and given certain anomalies I have come across in my studies of the relative positioning of African Americans and Black immigrants in the United States, I am calling for the formal development of a new ontology for the study of race and ethnicity. The crux of my argument is that, since processes of racialization and/or ethnogenesis emerge in the wake of human migrations—to include international migration, internal migration, colonialism, and slavery—they yield a single underlying ontology—ethnoraciality.