Across the humanities and social sciences it has become commonplace for scholars to argue that categories once assumed to be “natural” are in fact “social” or, in the familiar lingo, “socially constructed”. Two common examples of such categories are race and gender, but there many others. One interpretation of this claim is that although it is typically thought that what unifies the instances of such categories is some set of natural or physical properties, instead their unity rests on social features of the items in question. Social constructionists pursuing this strategy—and it is these social constructionists I will be focusing on in this paper—aim to “debunk” the ordinary assumption that the categories are natural, by revealing the more accurate social basis of the classification.2 To avoid confusion, and to resist some of the associations with the term ‘social construction’, I will sometimes use the term ‘socially founded’ for the categories that this sort of constructionist reveals as social rather than natural.
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