Session Submission Summary

Direct link:

Author Meets Critics: Elliott Green's "Industrialization and Assimilation"

Fri, September 1, 2:00 to 3:30pm PDT (2:00 to 3:30pm PDT), LACC, 408A

Session Submission Type: Author meet critics

Session Description

This is an author-meets-critics panel for Elliott Green’s new book Industrialization and Assimilation: Explaining Ethnic Change in the Modern World (published by Cambridge University Press in December 2022).

What explains why individuals assimilate into larger ethnic identities in some parts of the world but not others? Historically much of the focus in answering this question has been on the role of the state in promoting identity change, with too little attention given to the role of structural transformation in generating incentives for ethnic homogenization. Industrialization and Assimilation is the first book to focus on the process of ethnic identity change in a broad context. It not only provides evidence that ethnicity does indeed change across time but gives a causal explanation for how and why it changes. The book shows that, by altering the basis of economic production from land to labour and removing people from the “idiocy of rural life,” industrialization is a powerful agent for making societies more ethnically homogenous. More specifically, it argues that industrialization lower the relative value of rural land, leading people to identify less with more narrow rural identities in favour of broader identities that can aid them in navigating the formal urban economy. The book uses mixed methods, including the analysis of country-level census data from across the world and the detailed examination of multiple case studies, ranging from mid-20th century Turkey to contemporary Botswana, Somalia and Uganda, as well as the examples of Native Americans in the United States and Māori in New Zealand.

Industrialization and Ethnic Change in the Modern World thus makes three major contributions. First, it provides a simple, powerful and novel explanation for why and how people shift their ethnic identities. Second, it contains a wealth of qualitative empirical evidence ranging from Europe to North America, the Middle East, Africa and Oceania, including the use of both secondary material as well as archival and primary field work material. Finally, it uses the analysis of original and heretofore unused data from a variety of sources to support its argument.

This panel will be of interest to anyone interested in ethnicity and nationalism and the origins of modern ethnic and national identities. It brings together an internationally diverse group of scholars who work on the politics of identity formation across Africa, Eurasia, Latin America, and among Native Americans in the US.

Sub Unit