Accueil > Research > Theme 4. The Circulation of Objects and Cultural Signs

Program 4.2. Socio-economic uses of ethnicity

- Researchers : K. Argyriadis, G. Frigoli, N. Puig, C. Rinaudo
- Doctoral student : O. Pollet

The reconfiguration of the majority/minority relationship through the development of creative and tourist industries represents a field that is strongly influenced by social and economic uses of ethnicity. Research undertaken since the 1990s on economic activities related to ethnic minorities has shown the existence and the development of “niche” markets in various domains. In this research program, we will attempt to measure and analyze the evolution of the position occupied by ethnic minorities – and the redefinition of the “question of race” that arises from it – in the productions of dominant cultures. The professionals in this market that are specialized in these sectors have become aware, following the American model, that minorities create trends and that urban youth have simultaneously become consumers and prescribers of styles for numerous products sold to a wide audience. These practices invite us to take into consideration the confrontations between the development of globalized forms of consumable identities that produce imagined transnational realities (“ethnic tourism”, “black beauty”, “black music”, etc.) and the national groundings that contribute to their structuring and their reformulations.

This program will also examine a number of issues related to individuals’ physical appearance. In opposition to the still dominant perception that appearance represents an indelible part of each individual’s identity, we choose to propose another form of truth : the incontestable fact that the deliberate manipulation of physical appearance is becoming an industry and a growing market, which does not only obey purely individual logics but also to more decisive ones, to ‘ethnic’ ideals that are clearly identifiable as such (skin whitening, facial aesthetic surgery, various prostheses, etc.). It is not value judgments in terms of alienation or of futility that we seek to interrogate, but rather the content of practices of management and transformation of physical appearance : the uses of ethnic and racial categorizations in contemporary acts of bodily transformation, choices of self-presentation that emphasize codes that evoke diverse ethno-cultural ‘origins’, and others.

These questions will be addressed through the following studies :

- Controlling physical appearances among Afro-Cuban dancers and musicians from Cuba and Mexico (K. Argyriadis)
- Merchant productions of otherness (G. Frigoli)
- Cosmetic surgery, creation of faces and ethnicity in Lebanon (N. Puig)
- Creative industries and commercial promotion of difference in France and Mexico (C. Rinaudo)
- New figures of the universal artist (Denis Vidal)


Doctoral theses in progress :
Ethnicity, nation and tourist development in Mexico (O. Pollet)