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 ?
So it might be wrong to cast it, at least in origin, as an inter-ethnic conflict.
She suggests a space of possibility for mixed folks to embrace composite identities as part of an inter-ethnic, anti-racism struggle.
This negation has inhibited the development of the sociological study of inter-ethnic relations, a subject all the more delicate in light of the politicization of the immigration issue during the economic crisis that began in the 1970s.
Another important priority for Bosnia and Herzegovina is creating a strong state-level dimension for defense to accomplish the important goals of fostering inter-ethnic stability through mutual understanding and cooperation and improving the tactical and technical proficiency need to participate in the Partnership for Peace initiative.
The book therefore explores not only the relationship between Arab America and "America," but also the nuances of inter-ethnic, religious, and parochial tensions now deployed in Arab America as new immigrants compete for space while asserting different identities and ways of living.
But the violence has deeply soured inter-ethnic relations, and if political leaders can't reach a peace settlement, Macedonia seems fated for a breakup or partition.
39,100 to the Bensonhurst Council of Jewish Organizations and the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst for a joint project to improve inter-ethnic relations
An in-depth investigation is made by the author of the diverse impulses which reinforce ethnic specifics in multi-ethnic societies and the adequacy of institutional arrangements to cope with the pulls and pressures of inter-ethnic competition for a stake in the system.
NCM's goal is to raise the visibility of ethnic media; increase the ethnic media's access to the advertising dollar; and promote an AP-style inter-ethnic editorial exchange.
He said today the world is talking about promotion of the culture of pluralism, inter-faith peace and inter-ethnic dialogue but it was the western imperialism and colonialism that distorted and fragmented the inter-cultures and inter-ethnic harmony in the regions they ruled.
The projects ultimately led to the establishment of Youth Councils for young people of Osh and Tokmok cities allowing them to engage in advocacy activities by facilitating inter-ethnic tolerance in their communities.

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