The dynamics of “Doing Differences”

The question now to be answered is how the process of social production of gender, ethnicity and class is determined, and how resistance and social change can be explained.

The individual aspect, as well as the social aspect, plays an important role in the active production of gender, class and ethnic differentiation. In 1999, Evelyn Nakano Glenn called for “the social construction and institutionalization of gender and race” and thereby to focus more on the procedural character of the construction of ethnicity and gender rather than to categorize it. In their opinion, both the micro and the macro level are involved in the active production of ethnicity, gender and class. Therefore, the interplay of representation, interaction on the micro level and social structures have to be considered. But Glenn is not the only one who has criticized the strict separation into micro- and macro-phenomena. Anthony Giddens is convinced that, on the one hand, people create structures through their actions and, on the other hand, these structures allow and limit the action (Giddens 1984). Limiting is, however, not determined with determinate. This means that the actions of an individual and the social structures influence each other. Situational action and social structures are therefore constantly interrelated. This shows that the production of ethnicity, gender, and class depends, on the one hand, on already experienced experiences and practices, and on the other, on normative expectations in the present context.

But how is social change made possible? West and Fenstermaker represent the thesis that there are interactions between the situational construction of differences and the prevailing but situational normative structures. The consequence of this reciprocity is an orderly social structure according to the categories gender, ethnicity and class.

The contextual dependence of action is the driving force of social change through an unconscious or even conscious resistance to institutionalized rule systems or prevailing expectations. This can also be seen in the study on “Agnes”, which was carried out by Harold Garfinkel in the 1950s, because the fact that a transsexual man behaves like a woman is questioned the previous order. In this particular case, therefore, the dichotomy is assumed to differ from the previous assumption, and the normative expectations are thus not reproduced by the individual. This is then the starting point of social change.


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