Symbolic Category

A symbolic category belongs to the realm of ideas, meaning-making, and language. It is something actively created and recreated by human beings rather than pregiven, needing only to be labeled. Symbolic categories mark differences between grouped people or things. In doing so, they actually bring those people or things into exis- tence ~Bourdieu 2003!. For example, the term “Native American” is a symbolic category that encompasses all peoples indigenous to the land that is known, today, as the United States. But the term “Native American” did not exist before non-Native Americans came to the Americas. Choctaws, Crows, Iroquois, Hopis, Dakotas, Yaki- mas, Utes, and dozens of other people belonging to indigenous tribes existed. The term “Native American” flattens under one homogenizing heading the immensely different histories, languages, traditional beliefs, and rich cultural practices of these various tribes. In naming different races, racial categories create different races.

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