Consider one final, non-Soviet example. The boundary between Hungarians and Romanians in Transylvania is certainly sharper than that between Russians and Ukrainians in Ukraine. Here too, however, group boundaries are considerably more porous and ambiguous than is widely assumed. The language of both politics and everyday life, to be sure, is rigorously categorical, dividing the population into mutually exclusive ethno-national categories, and making no allowance for mixed or ambiguous forms. But this categorical code, important though it is as a constituent element of social relations, should not be taken for a faithful description of them. Reinforced by identitarian entrepreneurs on both sides, the categorical code obscures as much as it reveals about self-understandings, making the fluidity and ambiguity that arise from mixed marriages, from bilingualism, from migration, from Hungarian children attending Romanian-language schools, from intergenerational assimilation (in both directions), and - perhaps most important - from sheer indifference to the claims of ethnocultural nationality.
Even in its constructivist guise, the language of “identity” disposes us to think in terms of bounded groupness. It does so because even constructivist thinking on identity takes the existence of identity as axiomatic. Identity is always already “there”, as something that individuals and groups “have”, even if the content of particular identities, and the boundaries that mark groups off from one another, are conceptualized as always in flux. Even constructivist language tends therefore to objectify “identity”, to treat it as a “thing”, albeit a malleable one, that people “have”, “forge”, and “construct”.
The tendency to objectify “identity” deprives us of analytical leverage. It makes it more difficult for us to treat “groupness” and “bounded-ness” as emergent properties of particular structural or conjunctural settings rather than as always already there in some form. The point needs to be emphasized today more than ever, for the unreflectively groupist language that prevails in everyday life, journalism, politics, and much social research as well - the habit of speaking without qualification of “Albanians” and “Serbs” for exampe, as if they were sharply bounded, internally homogeneous “groups” - not only weakens social analysis but constricts political possibilities in the region.
— Brubaker & Cooper, ‘Beyond Identity’.