The tweet inspiration for this post comes from @marccold :
The phrase ‘Elements in the population’ appears throughout LC. Geographic regions tend to be discussed according to their history, broken down by period, then local history and description which will usually include enthography and there you’ll bump into today’s topic: Elements in the population.
What does that mean? Well it’s a tidy way of saying, “the people who aren’t the reggos.”
There are the Hungarians, and then there’s the DB919.2.A-Z if you know what I mean
I’m sure that the intent behind these ‘elements’ demarcations is the usual “if the resource doesn’t take pains to indicate the people its excluding, then treat it as though it’s talking about everybody.” This is the standard line which enforces white supremacy (and the male-as-default, heteronomativity, etc.) Even if your book ‘happens’ to be only about white americans, as long as it doesn’t say in text that it’s excluding all POC from it’s scope, class it as though it’s just about ‘Americans in general’.
This is another method of othering populations. For examples, let’s turn to the one I use most often:
Israel is roughly 75% Jewish, 25% non-Jewish (mostly Arab) *
Here’s some of the breakdown of the ‘Elements in the population’
Arabs. Palestinian Arabs—Arabs in Israel
DS113.7 General works
Then we get to the rest which is an odd mix of Nationality Jews and unmarked Nationalities. What I mean by that can be seen from some of the listing:
DS113.8.A35 Algerian Jews
DS113.8.B44 Belarusian Jews
DS113.8.C35 Canadian Jews
What if you’re a British Jew? What about the Belarusians in Israel who aren’t Jewish? NO CLUE.
Just kidding. I checked LCs catalog, and all of the books from DS113.8.B7 are about British Jews in Israel ex.
So I have no idea why it’s ‘British’ and not ‘British Jews’…
If you check the whole listing, you may notice that there is no way to specify ‘Jews in Israel’. I remind you that Jews are given heading status with the DS101-151 section itself, equating Israel with the Jews. For this reason, there is no way to talk about Jews as a class of people in Israel. According to LC, if a resource is about the Israeli population, it is already about the Jews unless otherwise specified.
So the next time you come across an LC section subdividing the population into ‘elements’, ask yourself who isn’t there. Ask yourself who is considered the ‘regular’ population.
* While there are most definitely Jews who live in, or are descended from those who lived in, Arab nations, the idea of a ‘Jewish Arab’ is contentious and many Jews who could be called ‘Arab Jews’ such as Yemenite or Iraqi Jews, usually do not as it seems (to them) to diminish the notion of Jewish-as-ethnicity. Some do identify as Arabian Jews, such as Ella Shohat and Ammiel Alcalay and I completely respect anyone’s decision to identify as a Jewish Arab or not. I only added this footnote to clarify for those readers who may wonder at the distinction in the CIA factbook percentages. Israel’s census treats these as two mutually distinct classes.