ethnic group

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Related to Ethnic classification: Cultural group

ethnic group

a group of people sharing an identity which arises from a collective sense of a distinctive history (see also ETHNICITY). Ethnic groups possess their own CULTURE, CUSTOMS, NORMS, beliefs and traditions. There is usually a common LANGUAGE, and boundary maintenance is observed between members and non-members. As well as by birth, ethnic group membership may be acquired through marriage or other socially sanctioned routes.

Whilst socially perceived racial characteristics may be a feature of such groups, ethnic groups are not synonymous with racial groups (see RACE). According to C. Peach et al. (1981), British academic concern with the subject of ethnicity increased as a result of black immigration in the postwar period. Thus, despite the presence of immigrants, refugees and ethnic minorities prior to this period, it was the combination of racial and ethnic distinctiveness which gave rise to both popular and academic interest in the subject. One result of this has been the confusion of the term ‘ethnic minority’ with racial minority, in the UK culture.

The anthropologist, Narroll (1964), stressed the importance of shared cultural values and a group awareness of cultural distinctiveness as key elements in ethnic group membership. Barth (1970) places emphasis on group organization and the maintenance of ethnic boundaries via ETHNIC MARKERS. He suggests that the boundaries between ethnic groups are maintained not through isolation, as Narroll argues, but through social processes of exclusion and incorporation, i.e. ethnic group members identify themselves in terms of ethnic categories and are in turn recognized as members by outsiders. REX (1986), in turn, has criticized Barth for his failure to consider conflict between ethnic groups and for his imprecise use of the term ‘group’. Rex also raises the question, immigrants aside, of the continued saliency of ethnic groupings in complex industrial societies and the utility of the concept as a precise basis of classification.

In societies in turmoil, however, ethnic groupings retain their importance and may be given added salience (or constructed) by political conflict, as in the former Yugoslavia, where the highly charged phrase ‘ethnic cleansing’ has appeared. An important distinction must therefore be drawn between those ethnic groups which consciously seek to assert their ethnicity, and those seen as ethnic minorities by more powerful groups (see also HOLOCAUST, GENOCIDE). In such cases, ethnic characteristics may be exaggerated or created to serve group interests and cohesion as well as to fuel conflict. The reverse side of the coin is when complex symbolic practices may be mobilized not to accentuate boundaries and divisions between groups, but to understate these in order to maximize INTEGRATION or ASSIMILATION. For example, in contemporary Britain, Pakistani Christian refugees may seek to minimize group differences. There are also cases in which ethnic group differences may be formulated in a climate of CULTURAL PLURALISM.

Where ethnicity is the basis for minority status, discriminatory practices against such groups may be legitimated by institutionalized means. As is widely apparent, ethnic minority status often seriously jeopardizes an individual's or group's life chances, particularly in relation to health, housing and employment.

It should also be noted that approaches to social stratification based on economic inequality find it difficult to treat the question of ethnicity adequately. See STATUS CONSISTENCY AND INCONSISTENCY. See also RACISM.

Ethnic Group


(Russian, etnicheskaia gruppa), a community of people that have similar languages and cultures. Examples of an ethnic group are the ancient Slavs and the ancient Germans. Typical ethnic groups today are the Celtic peoples, who no longer speak a common language but have preserved their cultural and ethnographic identity; the Paleoasiatic peoples of the northeastern USSR; the Eskimo of the USSR, Canada, the USA, and Greenland; the American Indians; and the Arabs of Asia and Africa. An ethnic group should be distinguished from an ethnographic group, which is a segment of a people.

References in periodicals archive ?
Within the broader ethnic classifications, each ethnic group had their own languages and cultures, and they generally lived in mountainous areas.
Sometime after Stanford undertook the secret ethnic classification project, I saw one of my personnel forms and discovered that I was code 5.
In so doing, I will pursue a synthesis of previous theorizing of indigenous micro-ethnicity in Borneo, including Peter Metcalf's recent hypothesis that it was constituted by the particular form of organization of trade, political leadership and longhouse residence, and Jacob Mallinckrodt's scheme of a genealogically-based tribal order which has served as the most influential reference for ethnic classification in southeast Borneo.
From 1991 through to 2001 New Zealander-type responses were coded as European at level I of the ethnic classification and New Zealand European at level 4, the most detailed listing.
Percent concordance and reliability coefficient ([kappa]) of racial/ ethnic classifications between Department of Veterans Affairs inpatient and outpatient data.
He spent a great deal of time there--on vacation and in a professional capacity--and in the previous year informed me in a letter of 14 March 1975 that he had spent time in February-March at the Centre de Documentation et des Recherches sur l'Asie du Sud-est et le Monde Insulindien (CDRASEMI) where he gave a lecture on "Problemes de Classification Ethnique en Indonesie" in which he said he was "quite critical towards attempts to draw up ethnic classification schemes on the basis of lexico-statistical lists.
This does not require the whole family or households to be assigned an ethnic classification, but instead requires an understanding of the interactions of individuals within the family or household.
This mobility of longhouses and longhouse-dwellers made ethnic classification extremely complicated.
Reflecting the difficulties of defining families rather than individuals by ethnic group, Statistics New Zealand (2004) has already abandoned the ethnic classification of both households and families.
Table 2: Ethnic Classification, 1991 Census Proportion of Population Ethnic Group in Great Britain White 94.
5% of infant deaths were matched with their corresponding birth registration, and 67 infant deaths had their ethnic classification changed from non-Maori to Maori (Pomare and de Boer 1988).
This brings currently inconsistent state agency data collection practices closer in line with the racial and ethnic classifications used by the U.

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