An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups such as a common set of traditions, ancestry, language, history, society, culture, nation, religion or social treatment within their residing area. Ethnicity is sometimes used interchangeably with the term
nation A nation is a community of people formed on the basis of a common language, history, ethnicity, or a common culture, and, in many cases, a shared territory. A nation is more overtly political than an ethnic group; it has been described as "a fully ...
, particularly in cases of ethnic nationalism, and is separate from, but related to the concept of races. Ethnicity can be an inherited status or based on the society within which one lives. Membership of an ethnic group tends to be defined by a shared
cultural heritage Cultural heritage is the legacy of cultural resources and intangible attributes of a group or society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sh ...
, ancestry, origin myth,
history History (from Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation") is the study of the past. Events occurring before the invention of writing systems are considered prehistory. "History" is an umbrella term that relate ...

homeland A homeland is the concept of the place where a cultural, national, or racial identity had formed. The definition can also mean simply one's country of birth. When used as a proper noun, the Homeland, as well as its equivalents in other languag ...
language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed of glyphs to inscribe the original soun ...
dialect The term dialect (from Latin , , from the Ancient Greek word , , "discourse", from , , "through" and , , "I speak") is used in two distinct ways to refer to two different types of Linguistics, linguistic phenomena: * One usage refers to a variety ...
, symbolic systems such as
religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, morals, beliefs, worldviews, religious text, texts, shrine, sanctified places, prophecy, prophecies, ethics in religion, ...
, mythology and
ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed in a sequestered place and according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community. Rit ...

cuisine A cuisine is a style of cooking characterized by distinctive ingredients, techniques and dishes, and usually associated with a specific culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and Norm (social), no ...
, dressing style, art or physical appearance. Ethnic groups often continue to speak related languages and share a similar gene pool. By way of language shift, acculturation, adoption and religious conversion, individuals or groups may over time shift from one ethnic group to another. Ethnic groups may be subdivided into subgroups or tribes, which over time may become separate ethnic groups themselves due to endogamy or Geographical segregation, physical isolation from the parent group. Conversely, formerly separate ethnicities can merge to form a pan-ethnicity and may eventually Melting pot, merge into one single ethnicity. Whether through division or amalgamation, the formation of a separate ethnic identity is referred to as ethnogenesis. The nature of ethnicity is still debated by scholars. 'Primordialists' view ethnic groups as real phenomena whose distinct characteristics have endured since the distant past. Others view ethnic groups as a social construct, an identity which is assigned based on rules made by society.


The term ''wikt:ethnic, ethnic'' is derived from the Ancient Greek, Greek word wikt:ἔθνος, ἔθνος ''ethnos'' (more precisely, from the adjective ἐθνικός ''ethnikos'', which was loaned into Latin as ''ethnicus''). The inherited English language term for this concept is ''wikt:folk, folk'', used alongside the latinate ''wikt:people, people'' since the late Middle English period. In Early Modern English and until the mid-19th century, ''ethnic'' was used to mean wikt:heathen, heathen or wikt:pagan, pagan (in the sense of disparate "nations" which did not yet participate in the Christendom, Christian oikumene), as the Septuagint used ''ta ethne'' ("the nations") to translate the Hebrew ''goyim'' "the nations, non-Hebrews, non-Jews". The Greek term in Archaic Greece, early antiquity (Homeric Greek) could refer to any large group, a ''host'' of men, a ''band'' of comrades as well as a ''swarm'' or ''flock'' of animals. In Classical Greek, the term took on a meaning comparable to the concept now expressed by "ethnic group", mostly translated as ":wikt:nation, nation, people"; only in Hellenistic Greek did the term tend to become further narrowed to refer to "foreign" or "barbarians, barbarous" nations in particular (whence the later meaning "heathen, pagan"). In the 19th century, the term came to be used in the sense of "peculiar to a race, people or nation", in a return to the original Greek meaning. The sense of "different cultural groups", and in American English "racial, cultural or national minority group" arises in the 1930s to 1940s, serving as a replacement of the term race (human classification), race which had earlier taken this sense but was now becoming deprecated due to its association with ideological racism. The abstract ''ethnicity'' had been used for "paganism" in the 18th century, but now came to express the meaning of an "ethnic character" (first recorded 1953). The term ''ethnic group'' was first recorded in 1935 and entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 1972. Depending on the context that is used, the term nationality may either be used synonymously with ethnicity or synonymously with citizenship (in a sovereign state). The process that results in the emergence of an ethnicity is called ethnogenesis, a term in use in ethnology, ethnological literature since about 1950. The term may also be used with the connotation of something exoticism, exotic (cf. "ethnic restaurant", etc.), generally related to cultures of more recent immigrants, who arrived after the dominant population of an area was established. Depending on which source of group identity is emphasized to define membership, the following types of (often mutually overlapping) groups can be identified: * Ethnolinguistic group, Ethno-linguistic, emphasizing shared
language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed of glyphs to inscribe the original soun ...
dialect The term dialect (from Latin , , from the Ancient Greek word , , "discourse", from , , "through" and , , "I speak") is used in two distinct ways to refer to two different types of Linguistics, linguistic phenomena: * One usage refers to a variety ...
(and possibly Writing system, script)– example: French Canadians * Nation state, Ethno-national, emphasizing a shared polity or sense of national identity– example: Austrians * Racial group, Ethno-racial, emphasizing shared physical appearance based on genetic origins– example: African Americans * Regionalism (politics), Ethno-regional, emphasizing a distinct local sense of belonging stemming from relative geographic isolation– example: South Island nationalism, South Islanders of New Zealand * Ethnoreligious group, Ethno-religious, emphasizing shared affiliation with a particular religion, denomination or sect– example: Jews In many cases, more than one aspect determines membership: for instance, Armenians, Armenian ethnicity can be defined by citizenship of Armenia, native use of the Armenian language, or membership of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Definitions and conceptual history

Greco-Roman ethnography, Ethnography begins in classical antiquity; after early authors like Anaximander and Hecataeus of Miletus, Herodotus in c. 480 BC laid the foundation of both historiography and ethnography of the ancient world. The Greeks at this time did not only describe foreign nations but had also developed a concept of their own "ethnicity", which they grouped under the name of Hellenes. Herodotus (8.144.2) gave a famous account of what defined Greek (Hellenic) ethnic identity in his day, enumerating # shared kinship and descent, descent (ὅμαιμον – ''homaimon'', "of the same blood"), # shared
language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed of glyphs to inscribe the original soun ...
(ὁμόγλωσσον – ''homoglōsson'', "speaking the same language") # shared sanctuaries and sacrifices (Greek: θεῶν ἱδρύματά τε κοινὰ καὶ θυσίαι – ''theōn hidrumata te koina kai thusiai'') # shared Mores, customs (Greek: ἤθεα ὁμότροπα – ''ēthea homotropa'', "customs of like fashion"). Whether ethnicity qualifies as a cultural universal is to some extent dependent on the exact definition used. Many social scientists, such as Anthropology, anthropologists Fredrik Barth and Eric Wolf, do not consider ethnic identity to be universal. They regard ethnicity as a product of specific kinds of inter-group interactions, rather than an essential quality inherent to human groups. According to Thomas Hylland Eriksen, the study of ethnicity was dominated by two distinct debates until recently. * One is between "primordialism" and "instrumentalism". In the primordialism, primordialist view, the participant perceives ethnic ties collectively, as an externally given, even coercive, social bond. The instrumentalism, instrumentalist approach, on the other hand, treats ethnicity primarily as an ad-hoc element of a political strategy, used as a resource for interest groups for achieving secondary goals such as, for instance, an increase in wealth, power, or status. This debate is still an important point of reference in Political science, although most scholars' approaches fall between the two poles. * The second debate is between "constructivism (international relations), constructivism" and "essentialism". Constructivists view national and ethnic identities as the product of historical forces, often recent, even when the identities are presented as old. Essentialists view such identities as ontological categories defining social actors. According to Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Eriksen, these debates have been superseded, especially in anthropology, by scholars' attempts to respond to increasingly politicized forms of self-representation by members of different ethnic groups and nations. This is in the context of debates over multiculturalism in countries, such as the United States and Canada, which have large immigrant populations from many different cultures, and post-colonialism in the Caribbean and South Asia. Max Weber maintained that ethnic groups were ''künstlich'' (artificial, i.e. a social construct) because they were based on a subjective belief in shared ''Gemeinschaft'' (community). Secondly, this belief in shared Gemeinschaft did not create the group; the group created the belief. Third, group formation resulted from the drive to monopolize power and status. This was contrary to the prevailing naturalist belief of the time, which held that socio-cultural and behavioral differences between peoples stemmed from inherited traits and tendencies derived from common descent, then called "race". Another influential theoretician of ethnicity was Fredrik Barth, whose "Ethnic Groups and Boundaries" from 1969 has been described as instrumental in spreading the usage of the term in social studies in the 1980s and 1990s. Barth went further than Weber in stressing the constructed nature of ethnicity. To Barth, ethnicity was perpetually negotiated and renegotiated by both external ascription and internal self-identification. Barth's view is that ethnic groups are not discontinuous cultural isolates or logical ''a priority'' to which people naturally belong. He wanted to part with anthropological notions of cultures as bounded entities, and ethnicity as primordialist bonds, replacing it with a focus on the interface between groups. "Ethnic Groups and Boundaries", therefore, is a focus on the interconnectedness of ethnic identities. Barth writes: "...categorical ethnic distinctions do not depend on an absence of mobility, contact, and information, but do entail social processes of exclusion and incorporation whereby discrete categories are maintained despite changing participation and membership in the course of individual life histories." In 1978, anthropologist Ronald Cohen (anthropologist), Ronald Cohen claimed that the identification of "ethnic groups" in the usage of social scientists often reflected inaccurate labels more than indigenous realities:
...the named ethnic identities we accept, often unthinkingly, as basic givens in the literature are often arbitrarily, or even worse inaccurately, imposed.
In this way, he pointed to the fact that identification of an ethnic group by outsiders, e.g. anthropologists, may not coincide with the self-identification of the members of that group. He also described that in the first decades of usage, the term ethnicity had often been used in lieu of older terms such as "cultural" or "tribal" when referring to smaller groups with shared cultural systems and shared heritage, but that "ethnicity" had the added value of being able to describe the commonalities between systems of group identity in both tribal and modern societies. Cohen also suggested that claims concerning "ethnic" identity (like earlier claims concerning "tribal" identity) are often colonialist practices and effects of the relations between colonized peoples and nation-states.Ronald Cohen 1978 "Ethnicity: Problem and Focus in Anthropology", ''Annual Review of Anthropology'' 7: 383-384 Palo Alto: Stanford University Press According to Paul James (academic), Paul James, formations of identity were often changed and distorted by colonization, but identities are not made out of nothing:
[C]ategorizations about identity, even when codified and hardened into clear typologies by processes of colonization, state formation or general modernizing processes, are always full of tensions and contradictions. Sometimes these contradictions are destructive, but they can also be creative and positive.
Social scientists have thus focused on how, when, and why different markers of ethnic identity become salient. Thus, anthropologist Joan Vincent observed that ethnic boundaries often have a mercurial character. Ronald Cohen concluded that ethnicity is "a series of nesting dichotomizations of inclusiveness and exclusiveness". He agrees with Joan Vincent's observation that (in Cohen's paraphrase) "Ethnicity... can be narrowed or broadened in boundary terms in relation to the specific needs of political mobilization. This may be why descent is sometimes a marker of ethnicity, and sometimes not: which diacritic of ethnicity is salient depends on whether people are scaling ethnic boundaries up or down, and whether they are scaling them up or down depends generally on the political situation. Kanchan Chandra rejects the expansive definitions of ethnic identity (such as those that include common culture, common language, common history and common territory), choosing instead to define ethnic identity narrowly as a subset of identity categories determined by the belief of common descent.

Approaches to understanding ethnicity

Different approaches to understanding ethnicity have been used by different social scientists when trying to understand the nature of ethnicity as a factor in human life and society. As Jonathan M. Hall observes, World War II was a turning point in ethnic studies. The consequences of Nazi racism discouraged essentialist interpretations of ethnic groups and race. Ethnic groups came to be defined as social rather than biological entities. Their coherence was attributed to shared myths, descent, kinship, a commonplace of origin, language, religion, customs, and national character. So, ethnic groups are conceived as mutable rather than stable, constructed in discursive practices rather than written in the genes. Examples of various approaches are primordialism, essentialism, perennialism, constructivism, modernism, and instrumentalism. * "''Primordialism''", holds that ethnicity has existed at all times of human history and that modern ethnic groups have historical continuity into the far past. For them, the idea of ethnicity is closely linked to the idea of nations and is rooted in the pre-Weber understanding of humanity as being divided into primordially existing groups rooted by kinship and biological heritage. ** "''Essentialist primordialism''" further holds that ethnicity is an ''a priori'' fact of human existence, that ethnicity precedes any human social interaction and that it is unchanged by it. This theory sees ethnic groups as natural, not just as historical. It also has problems dealing with the consequences of intermarriage, migration and colonization for the composition of modern-day multi-ethnic Society, societies. ** "''Kinship primordialism''" holds that ethnic communities are extensions of kinship units, basically being derived by kinship or clan ties where the choices of cultural signs (language, religion, traditions) are made exactly to show this biological affinity. In this way, the myths of common biological ancestry that are a defining feature of ethnic communities are to be understood as representing actual biological history. A problem with this view on ethnicity is that it is more often than not the case that mythic origins of specific ethnic groups directly contradict the known biological history of an ethnic community. ** "''Geertz's primordialism''", notably espoused by anthropologist Clifford Geertz, argues that humans in general attribute an overwhelming power to primordial human "givens" such as blood ties, language, territory, and cultural differences. In Geertz' opinion, ethnicity is not in itself primordial but humans perceive it as such because it is embedded in their experience of the world. * "''Perennialism''", an approach that is primarily concerned with nationhood but tends to see nations and ethnic communities as basically the same phenomenon holds that the nation, as a type of social and political organization, is of an immemorial or "perennial" character. Smith (1999) distinguishes two variants: "continuous perennialism", which claims that particular nations have existed for very long periods, and "recurrent perennialism", which focuses on the emergence, dissolution and reappearance of nations as a recurring aspect of human history. ** "''Perpetual perennialism''" holds that specific ethnic groups have existed continuously throughout history. ** "''Situational perennialism''" holds that nations and ethnic groups emerge, change and vanish through the course of history. This view holds that the concept of ethnicity is a tool used by political groups to manipulate resources such as wealth, power, territory or status in their particular groups' interests. Accordingly, ethnicity emerges when it is relevant as a means of furthering emergent collective interests and changes according to political changes in society. Examples of a perennialist interpretation of ethnicity are also found in Barth and Seidner who see ethnicity as ever-changing boundaries between groups of people established through ongoing social negotiation and interaction. ** "''Instrumentalist perennialism''", while seeing ethnicity primarily as a versatile tool that identified different ethnics groups and limits through time, explains ethnicity as a mechanism of social stratification, meaning that ethnicity is the basis for a hierarchical arrangement of individuals. According to Donald Noel, a sociologist who developed a theory on the origin of ethnic stratification, ethnic stratification is a "system of stratification wherein some relatively fixed group membership (e.g., race, religion, or nationality) is utilized as a major criterion for assigning social positions". Ethnic stratification is one of many different types of social stratification, including stratification based on socio-economic status, race, or gender. According to Donald Noel, ethnic stratification will emerge only when specific ethnic groups are brought into contact with one another, and only when those groups are characterized by a high degree of ethnocentrism, competition, and differential power. Ethnocentrism is the tendency to look at the world primarily from the perspective of one's own culture, and to downgrade all other groups outside one's own culture. Some sociologists, such as Lawrence Bobo and Vincent Hutchings, say the origin of ethnic stratification lies in individual dispositions of ethnic prejudice, which relates to the theory of ethnocentrism. Continuing with Noel's theory, some degree of differential power must be present for the emergence of ethnic stratification. In other words, an inequality of power among ethnic groups means "they are of such unequal power that one is able to impose its will upon another". In addition to differential power, a degree of competition structured along ethnic lines is a prerequisite to ethnic stratification as well. The different ethnic groups must be competing for some common goal, such as power or influence, or a material interest, such as wealth or territory. Lawrence Bobo and Vincent Hutchings propose that competition is driven by self-interest and hostility, and results in inevitable stratification and Group conflict, conflict. * "''Constructivism''" sees both primordialist and perennialist views as basically flawed, and rejects the notion of ethnicity as a basic human condition. It holds that ethnic groups are only products of human social interaction, maintained only in so far as they are maintained as valid social constructs in societies. ** "''Modernist constructivism''" correlates the emergence of ethnicity with the movement towards nation states beginning in the early modern period. Proponents of this theory, such as Eric Hobsbawm, argue that ethnicity and notions of ethnic pride, such as nationalism, are purely modern inventions, appearing only in the modern period of world history. They hold that prior to this, ethnic homogeneity was not considered an ideal or necessary factor in the forging of large-scale societies. Ethnicity is an important means by which people may identify with a larger group. Many social scientists, such as Anthropology, anthropologists Fredrik Barth and Eric Wolf, do not consider ethnic identity to be universal. They regard ethnicity as a product of specific kinds of inter-group interactions, rather than an essential quality inherent to human groups.Fredrik Barth, ed. 1969 ''Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organization of Cultural Difference''; Eric Wolf 1982 ''Europe and the People Without History'' p. 381 Processes that result in the emergence of such identification are called ethnogenesis. Members of an ethnic group, on the whole, claim cultural continuities over time, although historians and Cultural anthropology, cultural anthropologists have documented that many of the values, practices, and norms that imply continuity with the past are of relatively recent invention. Ethnic groups can form a cultural mosaic in a society. That could be in a city like New York City or Trieste, but also the fallen monarchy of the Austria-Hungary, Austro-Hungarian Empire or the USA. Current topics are in particular social and cultural differentiation, multilingualism, competing identity offers, multiple cultural identities and the formation of salad bowl (cultural idea), Salad bowl and melting pot. Ethnic groups differ from other social groups, such as subcultures, interest groups or social classes, because they emerge and change over historical periods (centuries) in a process known as ethnogenesis, a period of several generations of endogamy resulting in common ancestry (which is then sometimes cast in terms of a national myth, mythological narrative of a Eponymous ancestor, founding figure); ethnic identity is reinforced by reference to "boundary markers" – characteristics said to be unique to the group which set it apart from other groups.''The Invention of Tradition'', Sider 1993 ''Lumbee Indian Histories''Smith 1987 pp.21–22

Ethnicity theory in the United States

''Ethnicity theory'' says that race is a social category and is but one of several factors in determining ethnicity. Some other criteria include: "religion, language, 'customs,' nationality, and political identification". This theory was put forth by sociologist Robert E. Park in the 1920s. It is based on the notion of “culture”. This theory was preceded by over a century where essentialism, biological essentialism was the dominant paradigm on race. Biological essentialism is the belief that white European races are biologically superior and other non-white races are inherently inferior. This view arose as a way to justify slavery of Africans and genocide of the Native Americans in a society which was supposedly founded on freedom for all. This was a notion that developed slowly and came to be a preoccupation with scientists, theologians, and the public. Religious institutions asked questions about whether there had been multiple genesis's (polygenesis) and whether God had created lesser races of men. Many of the foremost scientists of the time took up the idea of racial difference. They would inadvertently find that white Europeans were superior. One method that was used as the measurement of cranial capacity. The ethnicity theory was based on the assimilation model. Park outlined his four steps to assimilation: contact, conflict, accommodation, and assimilation. Instead of explaining the marginalized status of people of color in the United States with an inherent biological inferiority, he instead said that it was a failure to assimilate into American culture that held people back. They could be equal as long as they dropped their culture which was deficient compared to white culture. Michael Omi and Howard Winant's theory of racial formation directly confronts both ethnicity theory's premises and practices. They argue in Racial Formation in the United States that ethnicity theory was exclusively based on the immigration patterns of a white ethnic population and did not account for the unique experiences of non-whites in this country. While this theory identities different stages in an immigration process– contact, conflict, struggle, and as the last and best response, assimilation– it did so only for white ethnic communities. The ethnicity paradigm neglects the ways that race can complicate a community's interactions with basic social and political structures, especially upon contact. And assimilation– shedding the particular qualities of a native culture for the purpose of blending in with a host culture– did not work for some groups as a response to racism and discrimination as it did for others. Moreover, once the legal barriers to achieving equality had been dismantled, the problem of racism became the sole responsibility of already disadvantaged communities. It was assumed that if a Black or Latino community was not 'making it' by the standards that had been set by white ethnics, it was because that community did not hold the right values or beliefs. Or they must be stubbornly resisting dominant norms because they did not want to fit in. Omi and Winant's critique of ethnicity theory explains how looking towards a cultural defect for the source of inequality ignores the "concrete sociopolitical dynamics within which racial phenomena operate in the U.S." In other words, buying into this approach effectively strips us of our ability to critically examine the more structural components of racism and encourages, instead, a “benign neglect” of social inequality.

Ethnicity and nationality

In some cases, especially involving transnational migration or colonial expansion, ethnicity is linked to nationality. Anthropologists and historians, following the modernist understanding of ethnicity as proposed by Ernest Gellner and Benedict Anderson see nations and nationalism as developing with the rise of the modern state system in the 17th century. They culminated in the rise of "nation-states" in which the presumptive boundaries of the nation coincided (or ideally coincided) with state boundaries. Thus, in the West, the notion of ethnicity, like race and
nation A nation is a community of people formed on the basis of a common language, history, ethnicity, or a common culture, and, in many cases, a shared territory. A nation is more overtly political than an ethnic group; it has been described as "a fully ...
, developed in the context of European colonial expansion, when mercantilism and capitalism were promoting global movements of populations at the same time that Sovereign state, state boundaries were being more clearly and rigidly defined. In the 19th century, modern states generally sought legitimacy through their claim to represent "nations." Nation-states, however, invariably include populations that have been excluded from national life for one reason or another. Members of excluded groups, consequently, will either demand inclusion based on equality or seek autonomy, sometimes even to the extent of complete political separation in their nation-state. Under these conditions– when people moved from one state to another, or one state conquered or colonized peoples beyond its national boundaries– ethnic groups were formed by people who identified with one nation, but lived in another state. Multi-ethnic states can be the result of two opposite events, either the recent creation of state borders at variance with traditional tribal territories, or the recent immigration of Ethnic minority, ethnic minorities into a former nation-state. Examples for the first case are found throughout Africa, where countries created during decolonization inherited arbitrary colonial borders, but also in European countries such as Belgium or United Kingdom. Examples for the second case are countries such as Netherlands, which were relatively ethnically homogeneous when they attained statehood but have received significant immigration during the second half of the 20th century. States such as the United Kingdom, France and Switzerland comprised distinct ethnic groups from their formation and have likewise experienced substantial immigration, resulting in what has been termed "multicultural" societies, especially in large cities. The states of the New World were multi-ethnic from the onset, as they were formed as colonies imposed on existing indigenous populations. In recent decades feminist scholars (most notably Nira Yuval-Davis) have drawn attention to the fundamental ways in which women participate in the creation and reproduction of ethnic and national categories. Though these categories are usually discussed as belonging to the public, political sphere, they are upheld within the private, family sphere to a great extent. It is here that women act not just as biological reproducers but also as 'cultural carriers', transmitting knowledge and enforcing behaviors that belong to a specific collectivity. Women also often play a significant symbolic role in conceptions of nation or ethnicity, for example in the notion that 'women and children' constitute the kernel of a nation which must be defended in times of conflict, or in iconic figures such as Britannia or Marianne.

Ethnicity and race

Ethnicity is used as a matter of cultural identity of a group, often based on shared ancestry, language, and cultural traditions, while race is applied as a taxonomic grouping, based on physical or biological similarities within groups. Race is a more controversial subject than ethnicity, due to common political use of the term. Ramón Grosfoguel (University of California, Berkeley) argues that “racial/ethnic identity” is one concept and that concepts of race and ethnicity cannot be used as separate and autonomous categories. Before Weber (1864-1920), race and ethnicity were primarily seen as two aspects of the same thing. Around 1900 and before, the primordialist understanding of ethnicity predominated: cultural differences between peoples were seen as being the result of inherited traits and tendencies. With Weber's introduction of the idea of ethnicity as a social construct, race and ethnicity became more divided from each other. In 1950, the UNESCO statement "The Race Question", signed by some of the internationally renowned scholars of the time (including Ashley Montagu, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Gunnar Myrdal, Julian Huxley, etc.), stated:
"National, religious, geographic, linguistic and cultural groups do not necessarily coincide with racial groups: and the cultural traits of such groups have no demonstrated genetic connection with racial traits. Because serious errors of this kind are habitually committed when the term 'race' is used in popular parlance, it would be better when speaking of human races to drop the term 'race' altogether and speak of 'ethnic groups'."
In 1982, anthropologist David Craig Griffith summed up forty years of ethnographic research, arguing that racial and ethnic categories are symbolic markers for different ways that people from different parts of the world have been incorporated into a global economy: According to Wolf, racial categories were constructed and incorporated during the period of mercantilism, European mercantile expansion, and ethnic groupings during the period of capitalism, capitalist expansion. Writing in 1977 about the usage of the term "ethnic" in the ordinary language of Great Britain and the United States, Wallman noted that In the U.S., the Office of Management and Budget, OMB states the definition of race as used for the purposes of the US Census is not "scientific or anthropological" and takes into account "social and cultural characteristics as well as ancestry", using "appropriate scientific methodologies" that are not "primarily biological or genetic in reference".

Ethno-national conflict

Sometimes ethnic groups are subject to prejudicial attitudes and actions by the state or its constituents. In the 20th century, people began to argue that conflicts among ethnic groups or between members of an ethnic group and the state can and should be resolved in one of two ways. Some, like Jürgen Habermas and Bruce Barry, have argued that the legitimacy of modern states must be based on a notion of political rights of autonomous individual subjects. According to this view, the state should not acknowledge ethnic, national or racial identity but rather instead enforce political and legal equality of all individuals. Others, like Charles Taylor (philosopher), Charles Taylor and Will Kymlicka, argue that the notion of the autonomous individual is itself a cultural construct. According to this view, states must recognize ethnic identity and develop processes through which the particular needs of ethnic groups can be accommodated within the boundaries of the nation-state. The 19th century saw the development of the political ideology of ethnic nationalism, when the concept of race was tied to nationalism, first by German theorists including Johann Gottfried von Herder. Instances of societies focusing on ethnic ties, arguably to the exclusion of history or historical context, have resulted in the justification of nationalist goals. Two periods frequently cited as examples of this are the 19th-century consolidation and expansion of the German Empire and the 20th century Nazi Germany. Each promoted the pan-ethnic idea that these governments were only acquiring lands that had always been inhabited by ethnic Germans. The history of late-comers to the nation-state model, such as those arising in the Near East and south-eastern Europe out of the dissolution of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires, as well as those arising out of the former USSR, is marked by ethnic war, inter-ethnic conflicts. Such conflicts usually occur within multi-ethnic states, as opposed to between them, as in other regions of the world. Thus, the conflicts are often misleadingly labeled and characterized as civil wars when they are inter-ethnic conflicts in a multi-ethnic state.

Ethnic groups by continent


Ethnic groups in Africa number in the hundreds, each generally having its own Languages of Africa, language (or
dialect The term dialect (from Latin , , from the Ancient Greek word , , "discourse", from , , "through" and , , "I speak") is used in two distinct ways to refer to two different types of Linguistics, linguistic phenomena: * One usage refers to a variety ...
of a language) and culture. Many ethnic groups and nations of Africa qualify, although some groups are of a size larger than a tribal society. These mostly originate with the Sahelian kingdoms of the medieval period, such as that of the Akan people, Akan, deriving from Bonoman (11th century) then the Hobyo Sultanate (17th century).


Ethnic groups are abundant throughout Asia, with adaptations to the climate zones of Asia, which can be the Arctic, subarctic, temperate, subtropical or tropical. The ethnic groups have adapted to mountains, deserts, grasslands, and forests. On the coasts of Asia, the ethnic groups have adopted various methods of harvest and transport. Some groups are primarily hunter-gatherers, some practice transhumance (nomadic lifestyle), others have been agrarian/rural for millennia and others becoming industrial/urban. Some groups/countries of Asia are completely urban, such as those in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore. The colonization of Asia was largely ended in the 20th century, with national drives for independence and self-determination across the continent. Russia has over 185 Ethnic groups in Russia, recognized ethnic groups besides the 80% Russians, ethnic Russian majority. The largest group is the Tatars 3.8%. Many of the smaller groups are found in the Asian part of Russia (see Indigenous peoples of Siberia).


Europe has a large number of ethnic groups; Pan and Pfeil (2004) count 87 distinct "peoples of Europe", of which 33 form the majority population in at least one sovereign state, while the remaining 54 constitute ethnic minority, ethnic minorities within every state they inhabit (although they may form local regional majorities within a sub-national entity). The total number of national minority populations in Europe is estimated at 105 million people or 14% of 770 million Europeans. A number of European countries, including France, and Switzerland do not collect information on the ethnicity of their resident population. Russia has over 185 Ethnic groups in Russia, recognized ethnic groups besides the 80% Russians, ethnic Russian majority. The largest group is the Tatars 3.8%. Many of the smaller groups are found in the Asian part of Russia (see Indigenous peoples of Siberia). An example of a largely nomadic ethnic group in Europe is the Romani people, Roma, pejoratively known as Gypsies. They originated from India and speak the Romani language. Serbia, Serbian province of Vojvodina is recognizable for its Multinational state, multi-ethnic and Multiculturalism, multi-cultural identity. There are some 26 ethnic groups in the province, and six languages are in official use by the provincial administration.

North America

South America



See also

* Ancestor * Clan * Diaspora * Ethnic cleansing * Ethnic flag * Ethnic nationalism * Ethnic penalty * Ethnocentrism * Ethnocultural empathy * Ethnogenesis * Ethnocide * Ethnographic group * Genealogy * Genetic genealogy * Homeland * Human Genome Diversity Project * Identity politics * Ingroups and outgroups * Intersectionality * Kinship * List of contemporary ethnic groups * List of indigenous peoples * Meta-ethnicity * Minority group * Multiculturalism * Nation * National symbol * Passing (sociology) * Polyethnicity * Population genetics * Race (human categorization) * Race and ethnicity in censuses * Race and ethnicity in the United States Census * Race and health * Segmentary lineage * Stateless nation * Tribe * Y-chromosome haplogroups in populations of the world


Further reading

* Arash Abizadeh, Abizadeh, Arash
"Ethnicity, Race, and a Possible Humanity"
''World Order'', 33.1 (2001): 23-34. (Article that explores the social construction of ethnicity and race.) * Barth, Fredrik (ed). ''Ethnic groups and boundaries. The social organization of culture difference'', Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1969 * Beard, David and Kenneth Gloag. 2005. Musicology, The Key Concepts. London and New York: Routledge. * Billinger, Michael S. (2007)
"Another Look at Ethnicity as a Biological Concept: Moving Anthropology Beyond the Race Concept"
''Critique of Anthropology'' 27,1:5–35. * Craig, Gary, et al., eds. ''Understanding 'race'and ethnicity: theory, history, policy, practice'' (Policy Press, 2012) * Danver, Steven L. ''Native Peoples of the World: An Encyclopedia of Groups, Cultures and Contemporary Issues'' (2012) * Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Eriksen, Thomas Hylland (1993) ''Ethnicity and Nationalism: Anthropological Perspectives'', London: Pluto Press * Eysenck, H.J., ''Race, Education and Intelligence'' (London: Temple Smith, 1971) () * Healey, Joseph F., and Eileen O'Brien. ''Race, ethnicity, gender, and class: The sociology of group conflict and change'' (Sage Publications, 2014) * Hartmann, Douglas. "Notes on Midnight Basketball and the Cultural Politics of Recreation, Race and At-Risk Urban Youth", ''Journal of Sport and Social Issues''. 25 (2001): 339-366. * Eric Hobsbawm, Hobsbawm, Eric, and Terence Ranger, editors, ''The Invention of Tradition''. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983). * * Kappeler, Andreas. ''The Russian empire: A multi-ethnic history'' (Routledge, 2014) * Levinson, David, ''Ethnic Groups Worldwide: A Ready Reference Handbook'', Greenwood Publishing Group (1998), . * Magocsi, Paul Robert, ed. ''Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples'' (1999) * Merriam, A.P. 1959. "African Music", in R. Bascom and, M.J. Herskovits (eds), Continuity and Change in African Cultures, Chicago, University of Chicago Press. * Morales-Díaz, Enrique; Gabriel Aquino; & Michael Sletcher, "Ethnicity", in Michael Sletcher, ed., ''New England'', (Westport, CT, 2004). * * Seeger, A. 1987. Why Suyá Sing: A Musical Anthropology of an Amazonian People, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. * Seidner, Stanley S. Ethnicity, ''Language, and Power from a Psycholinguistic Perspective''. (Bruxelles: Centre de recherche sur le pluralinguisme1982). * Sider, Gerald, ''Lumbee Indian Histories'' (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993). * * Smith, Anthony D. (1998). ''Nationalism and modernism. A Critical Survey of Recent Theories of Nations and Nationalism''. London; New York: Routledge. * * Thernstrom, Stephan A. ed. ''Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups'' (1981) * U.S. Census Bureau]
State & County QuickFacts: Race

External links

entry in the
UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology
American Psychological Association's Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs
Ethnic Power Relations (EPR) Atlas
' by GROWup – Geographical Research On War, Unified Platform, ETH Zurich {{DEFAULTSORT:Ethnic Group Ethnic groups, Ethnicity, Majority–minority relations Multiracial affairs 1930s neologisms