(noun) The principle or theory that any entity such as a person, group, object, or concept has innate and universal qualities.

Example: A person is born gay.

Audio Pronunciation: (es·sen·tial·ism)

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Usage Notes:

  • The essentialist perspective advocates that individuals in categories such as class, ethnicity, gender, or sex share an intrinsic quality that is verifiable through empirical methods (whether currently known or unknown). Furthermore, essentialism focuses on what individuals are, not who they are and individuals are viewed as inherently a certain way and not developing through dynamic social processes.
  • Essentialism is contrasted to social constructionism.
  • Essentialist ideas can exist within the framework of social constructionism, but social constructionism cannot fit into the framework of essentialism.
  • A type of reductionism.
  • Also called biological reductionism.
  • An (noun) essentialist studies (adjective) essentialistic aspects of society (adverb) essentially to understand its (noun) essentiality or (noun) essentialness.

Related Quotations:

  • “For essentialists, race, sex, sexual orientation, disability, and social class identify significant, empirically verifiable differences among people. From the essentialist perspective, each of the these exist apart from any social processes; they are objective categories of real differences among people” (Rosenblum and Travis 2012:3).

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Rosenblum, Karen Elaine, and Toni-Michelle Travis. 2012. The Meaning of Difference: American Constructions of Race, Sex and Gender, Social Class, Sexual Orientation, and Disability. New York: McGraw-Hill.