A Bourdieusian exploration of ethnic inequalities at work: the case of the Nigerian Banking Sector

Chidozie Umeh, Nelarine Cornelius*, James Wallace

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article draws on Pierre Bourdieu’s critical sociology to explore the socio-political processes through which social resources or capital are sought and ethnic inequalities negotiated, legitimated and enforced in a postcolonial work context. Applying Bourdieusian analysis to data from interviews and vignettes in the Nigerian banking sector, the constructs ‘ethnicised identity’ and ‘symbolic identity’ are developed to show how employees across ethnic divides and work hierarchies use symbolic ethnic markers to negotiate benefits and enforce control as a status-independent capital. Realising diversity management goals in multiethnic workplaces may, therefore, require refocusing initiatives from racial to ethnic inequalities and, consequently, from inter-group inequalities (ethnic membership) to intra-group discriminations (ethnic affiliation). This research suggests that a more nuanced, contextually sensitive perspective is necessary to address workplace inequalities linked to ethnic diversity in organisations with indigenous multiethnicities.
Keywords: Bourdieu; diversity management; Ethnicised Identity; Inequality; Nigeria; Status; Symbolic Identity; Work
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages26
JournalWork, Employment and Society
Early online date21 Jun 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Jun 2023

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