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Public Lecture

“Ethnic Boundary-Making”

Andreas Wimmer (Princeton)


To advance the boundary making approach to ethnicity and race, Wimmer introduced a series of epistemological principles, theoretical stances, research designs, and modes of interpretation that allow to disentangle ethnic from other processes of group formation. Empirically, this helped to explain why some ethnic boundaries structure the allocation of resources, incite political passion, and represent primary aspects of individual identity while others don't. Paying systematic attention to such empirical variation helped to avoid both an unreflected essentialism and an exaggerated constructivism.

Andreas Wimmer's research aimed to understand the dynamics of nation-state formation, ethnic boundary making and political conflict from a comparative perspective. He has pursued these themes across the disciplinary fields of sociology, political science, and social anthropology and through various methods: field research in Mexico and Iraq, comparative historical analysis, quantitative cross-national research, network studies, formal modeling, the analysis of large-scale survey data, and so forth. His most recent books are Waves of War. Nationalism, State Formation and Ethnic Exclusion in the Modern World and Ethnic Boundary Making. Institutions, Networks Power. Wimmer is the Hughes-Rogers Professor of Sociology and Faculty Associate in Politics at Princeton University. Before Princeton, he taught at the University of California Los Angeles, and the Universities of Bonn, Neuchatel, and Zurich.