An ETHNIC GROUP, or an ETHNICITY, is a category of people who identify with each other based on similarities such as common ancestry , language , society , culture or nation . Ethnicity is usually an inherited status based on the society in which one lives. Membership of an ethnic group tends to be defined by a shared cultural heritage , ancestry , origin myth , history , homeland , language or dialect , symbolic systems such as religion , mythology and ritual , cuisine , dressing style, art , and physical appearance .
Ethnic groups, derived from the same historical founder population , often continue to speak related languages and share a similar gene pool . By way of language shift , acculturation , adoption and religious conversion , it is sometimes possible for individuals or groups to leave one ethnic group and become part of another (except for ethnic groups emphasizing racial purity as a key membership criterion).
Ethnicity is often used synonymously with ambiguous terms such as nation or people . In English, it can also have the connotation of something exotic (cf. " White ethnic ", "ethnic restaurant", etc.), generally related to cultures of more recent immigrants, who arrived after the founding population of an area was established.
The largest ethnic groups in modern times comprise hundreds of millions of individuals ( Han Chinese being the largest), while the smallest are limited to a few dozen individuals (numerous indigenous peoples worldwide). Larger ethnic groups may be subdivided into smaller sub-groups known variously as tribes or clans , which over time may become separate ethnic groups themselves due to endogamy or physical isolation from the parent group. Conversely, formerly separate ethnicities can merge to form a pan-ethnicity , and may eventually merge into one single ethnicity . Whether through division or amalgamation, the formation of a separate ethnic identity is referred to as ethnogenesis .
* 1 Terminology
* 2 Definitions and conceptual history
* 2.1 Approaches to understanding ethnicity * 2.2 Ethnicity theory
* 3 Ethnicity and nationality * 4 Ethnicity and race * 5 Ethno-national conflict
* 7 See also * 8 References * 9 Further reading * 10 External links
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The term ethnic is derived from the Greek word ἔθνος ethnos
(more precisely, from the adjective ἐθνικός ethnikos, which
was loaned into
Early Modern English
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
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
Depending on which source of group identity is emphasized to define membership, the following types of (often mutually overlapping) groups can be identified:
* Ethno-linguistic , emphasizing shared language , dialect (and
possibly script) – example:
In many cases – for instance, the sense of Jewish peoplehood – more than one aspect determines membership.
DEFINITIONS AND CONCEPTUAL HISTORY
Ethnography begins in classical antiquity ; after early authors like
* shared descent (ὅμαιμον - homaimon, "of the same blood"), * shared language (ὁμόγλωσσον - homoglōsson, "speaking the same language") * shared sanctuaries and sacrifices (Greek: θεῶν ἱδρύματά τε κοινὰ καὶ θυσίαι - theōn hidrumata te koina kai thusiai) * shared 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. According to "Challenges of
Measuring an Ethnic World: Science, politics, and reality", in
Challenges of Measuring an Ethnic World: Science, Politics and Reality
: Proceedings of the Joint Canada-
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 primordialist view, the participant perceives ethnic ties collectively, as an externally given, even coercive, social bond. The 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 " 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, and not the result of social action.
According to Eriksen , these debates have been superseded, especially
in anthropology , by scholars' attempts to respond to increasingly
politicised 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
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 monopolise power and status. This was contrary to the prevailing naturalist belief of the time, which held that socio-cultural and behavioural differences between peoples stemmed from inherited traits and tendencies derived from common descent, then called "race".
Another influential theoretician of ethnicity was
In 1978, 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.
According to Paul James , formations of identity were often changed and distorted by colonization, but identities are not made out of nothing:
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.
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. Examples of such 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 basically 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
* "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 organisation, is of an immemorial or "perennial" character. Smith (1999) distinguishes two variants: "continuous perennialism", which claims that particular nations have existed for very long spans of time, 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 basically 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 means of furthering emergent collective interests and changes according to political changes in the 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 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
Ethnicity is an important means by which people may identify with a larger group. Many social scientists, such as 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. 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 anthropologists have documented that many of the values, practices, and norms that imply continuity with the past are of relatively recent invention.
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 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 of 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 idea of racial difference. They would inadvertently find that white Europeans were superior. One method that was used was the measurement of cranial capacity.
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
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
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
Part of a series on
Political and legal anthropology
Basic concepts Status and rank
Law and custom
* Customary law * Legal culture
Case studies Acephelous Societies without hierarchical leaders
State Non-western state systems
* Negara * Mandala
* Technology, Tradition,
and the State in
* Circumscription theory
E. Adamson Hoebel
Social and cultural anthropology
* v * t * e
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 , developed in the context of European colonial expansion, when mercantilism and capitalism were promoting global movements of populations at the same time that 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 on the basis of equality, or seek autonomy, sometimes even to the extent of complete political separation in their own 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 minorities
into a former nation state. Examples for the first case are found
The states of the
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 behaviours 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
ETHNICITY AND RACE
Race and ethnicity are considered to be related concepts. Ethnicity
is often assumed to be somewhat more of a cultural identity of a
group, often based on shared ancestry, language and cultural
tradition, while race is assumed to be strictly a biological
classification, based on
Before Weber, race and ethnicity were primarily seen as two aspects of the same thing. Around 1900 and before, the essentialist primordialist understanding of ethnicity was predominant: cultural differences between peoples were seen as being the result of inherited traits and tendencies. With Weber's introduction of the view of ethnicity as a social construct, race and ethnicity became more divided from each other.
In 1950, the
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:
The opposing interests that divide the working classes are further
reinforced through appeals to "racial" and "ethnic" distinctions. Such
appeals serve to allocate different categories of workers to rungs on
the scale of labor markets, relegating stigmatized populations to the
lower levels and insulating the higher echelons from competition from
According to Wolf, racial categories were constructed and incorporated during the period of European mercantile expansion, and ethnic groupings during the period of capitalist expansion.
The term 'ethnic' popularly connotes '' in Britain, only less precisely, and with a lighter value load. In North America, by contrast, '' most commonly means color, and 'ethnics' are the descendants of relatively recent immigrants from non-English-speaking countries. '' is not a noun in Britain. In effect there are no 'ethnics'; there are only 'ethnic relations'.
In the U.S., the OMB defines the concept of race as outlined for the US Census as 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."
Further information: Ethnic 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 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
ETHNIC GROUPS BY CONTINENT
Many ethnic groups and nations of
Main article: Ethnic groups in Asia
This section NEEDS ADDITIONAL CITATIONS FOR VERIFICATION . Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources . Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (January 2013) (Learn how and when to remove this template message )
The Assyrians are the indigenous peoples of
There is an abundance of ethnic groups throughout
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
A number of European countries, including
* ^ "ethnicity: definition of ethnicity". Oxford Dictionaries.
Oxford University Press. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
* ^ People, James; Bailey, Garrick (2010). Humanity: An
Introduction to Cultural
Anthropology (9th ed.). Wadsworth Cengage
learning. p. 389. In essence, an ethnic group is a named social
category of people based on perceptions of shared social experience or
one's ancestors' experiences. Members of the ethnic group see
themselves as sharing cultural traditions and history that distinguish
them from other groups.
a ... 2.a. Pertaining to race; peculiar to a race or nation; ethnological. Also, pertaining to or having common racial, cultural, religious, or linguistic characteristics, esp. designating a racial or other group within a larger system; hence (U.S. colloq.), foreign, exotic. b ethnic minority (group), a group of people differentiated from the rest of the community by racial origins or cultural background, and usu. claiming or enjoying official recognition of their group identity. Also attrib.
n ... 3 A member of an ethnic group or minority. Equatorians
Oxford English Dictionary
* 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).
* Resources in your library
* Ethnicity at Curlie (based on
* v * t * e
Ingroups and outgroups
Groups by region
* Arab League
* Indigenous * European
Identity and ethnogenesis
Ideology and ethnic conflict
* Ethnic bioweapon * Ethnic cleansing * Ethnic hatred * Ethnic joke * Ethnic nationalism * Ethnic nepotism * Ethnic penalty * Ethnic slur * Ethnic stereotype * Ethnic violence * Ethnocentrism * Ethnocide * Ethnosymbolism * Indigenism * Separatist movements * Xenophobia
* LCCN : sh85045172 * GND : 4153095-0 * NDL