Identities and Everyday Interethnic Relationships
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This article examines the nature of group identity in order to gain insight into the character and quality of intergroup contacts, particularly the conditions for positive contacts between members of different ethnic groups. An important conception underlying the discussion is that identity is not a stable construct or fixed essence, but rather is discursive in nature and turns upon how individuals and collectivities distinguish themselves in their relations with other individuals and collectivities. Both resemblance and difference are thus essential principles of social identity, while ethnic identity is distinct from culture and may be analyzed as a form of social organization. This heightens the importance of the degree of permeability of group boundaries, and of one’s relation with their own ethnic group, in minimizing prejudice and fostering interethnic relations. Analysis of field interviews with members of Bulgarian and Bulgarian Turkish ethnic groups provided the basis for the theoretical discussion concerning intergroup contacts. The interviews also serve to illustrate the inverse relationship between intergroup contacts and prejudices, as well as the fact that insofar as intergroup ethnic conflicts and perceived differences occur between narrative constructs, they can be transformed and resolved through openness towards differences and dialogue.