The construction of ethnic identity: Insights from identity process theory

Rusi Jaspal, Marco Cinnirella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ethnicity has received much empirical and theoretical attention in the social sciences. Yet, it has scarcely been explored in terms of its relationship with the motivational principles of identity. Here it is argued that there is much heuristic and predictive value in applying identity process theory (IPT), a socio-psychological model of identity threat, to the substantive literature on ethnicity. The paper explores the potential psychological benefits of ethnic identification. Key theoretical strands from anthropology and sociology, such as the ‘relational self’ in ethnic identification, are discussed in relation to IPT. The intergroup dimension of ethnic identification is explored through the discussion of ethnic ‘boundaries’. Finally, the paper discusses the construct of ‘hybridization’ in relation to social psychology. This paper attempts to reconcile psychological and sociological perspectives on ethnic identification, advocating a multi-methodological approach. Key theoretical points are outlined in the form of testable hypotheses which are open to empirical exploration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-530
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2012


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