African immigrants and autochthones in the Northwest of Portugal: interethnic relations of accommodation and resistance
Silva, Manuel Carlos
Sociology University of Minho Braga, Portugal
The relations between autochthon majorities and immigrant-ethnic minorities are important challenges to democracy and demand a new political management, given that certain historical and current situations have been demonstrating that ethnic identity does not translate an inalterable reality but is relational and has been constituting, according to the Weberian assumption, a source of social divide as important (or even more) as social class identity. The positions of relative social and economical handicap occupied by the members of ethnic and immigrant minorities, aggravated by the external definitions and categorizations by the members of the alleged majority, hold tensions and contradictions that reflect those of the indigenous community or society itself. As theoretical models of intermediate reach we highlight, for example, regarding the question of the cultural and ethnic identity, the fourfold model of acculturation outlined, among others, by the social psychologist J. W. Berry, in which the acculturation, the assimilation, the separation and the marginalization constitute strategic modalities used by social actors in the management of their trajectories between the culture of origin and the culture of the welcoming society, where the concept of "integration" is used as a referential for the different ways of interethnic relationship.
Using evidence from a research made among African immigrants in the Northwest of Portugal, the author questions the functionalist presuppositions of J. W. Berry when it is assumed in an uncritical way the concept of acculturation, seen as a genre regarding the various specific differences. In fact, based on the different levels of analysis advanced by V. Bader, J. W. Berry concentrates on the acculturation and the assimilation but removes from the analysis the manifold constraints, particularly the core question of the economic and political power at the socio-structural, organizational and institutional levels in the welcoming society, and at the level of the daily interactions between the alleged majority and the ethnic minorities. Then, Berry seems to ignore the "hidden records", in J. Scott's words, the forms of passive avoidance and distancing, the instrumental accommodation or the silent resistance, indeed symptomatic of contained ethnic identities like those of the African black immigrants in Portugal.