ethnic group

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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 ?
Provinces such as British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba have higher proportions of immigrants compared to the Atlantic Provinces, yet residents of the latter are much more likely to report "Canadian" ethnic origin.
The medical literature is mixed on this topic with respect to the influence of ethnic origin.
The extremes to which the logic of racial preferences was being taken became apparent when Assembly Speaker Willie Brown introduced a measure (vetoed by Governor Wilson) which called for "enhanced success at all educational levels so that there are similar achievement patterns among all groups regardless of ethnic origin, race, gender, age, disability, or economic circumstance.
Figure 34: Frequency of visiting favorite fast food/drive-in restaurant, by race and ethnic origin, June 2007
The Italy international last week accepted a charge of an aggravated breach of FA rule E3, relating to references of ethnic origin, colour, race, nationality or religion or belief, after his posting of an image of computer game character Super Mario on Instagram which included the words "jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew".
Anti-Muslim and Asian messages defacing a series of properties linked to tenants of ethnic origin were sprayed in the town of Ryde.
According to the Advocate General's Opinion, at first sight it appears that the case involves indirect discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin.
There were provocateurs in 2010 and 1990, who were trying to set people against each other, dividing people by ethnic origin," said the head of state.
It is further alleged that this included a reference to the ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race of Patrice Evra," said the FA.
These differences may be due to the colour of their skin, their age, religious views, ethnic origin, language or social class.
THE MAJORITY of Cypriots believe discrimination over ethnic origin is widespread on the island, according to a European poll.
True valour deserves respect regardless of ethnic origin.

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