Kerice (image: Merriam045)

Throughout history, minority racial and ethnic groups have often faced oppression from local majority groups within various geopolitical states. Medieval Germany can serve as a valuable model when studying the social construction of race and ethnicity; it exemplifies the competition that arises from state formation, which often has a negative impact on minority communities. In medieval Germany, it was Jewish communities that suffered.  

Complexity Postdoctoral Fellow Kerice Doten-Snitker, who completed her Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Washington, explores how the formation of states and institutions paves the way for the social constructs of race and ethnicity to emerge. She uses quantitative, geospatial, and historical methods to study how those constructs arise and how they affect societies and individuals. Her dissertation illustrates how social boundaries, such as cultural differences and class hierarchy that resulted from competition, were intertwined with political development, institutional change, and the facilitation of opportunistic exclusion and violence. “The expulsion of Jews from medieval German cities was legislated by the government,” she says. “This is something we can use to learn about other times in the past and in contemporary politics.”                         

While at SFI, Doten-Snitker hopes to build on her existing research. “When we think about inclusion and exclusion as part of social change, concepts regarding complexity science easily flow into that,” she explains. She also hopes to finish creating the most comprehensive spatial database on medieval and modern Germany and dive into studying witch trials in medieval and modern Europe as well. Doten-Snitker joined SFI in August.