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.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
As such, the dictionaries exercise a very important function--preservation of traditional worldview components that carry the essence of the life of a northern ethnos. The way in which small-numbered indigenous peoples live is determined mainly by three factors: natural conditions, type of displacement, and type of economy, the latter two of which define the type of culture.
Ao analisar os principios de classificacao que foram acionados para aplacar a guerra que pos fim a antiga Iugoslavia, Jacques Ranciere (2005) chama a atencao que a oposicao entre ethnos e demos ja estava posta entre os gregos e constituia-se no fundamento da ideia de democracia atualizada pela reforma de Clistenes.
of Tel Aviv, Israel) here moves from undermining the idea of a distinct Jewish ethnos in exile to undermining the Zionist concept of return to the "Land of Israel." He critically consider the ways in which the Zionist colonization of Palestine and the establishment of the State of Israel have been justified by claims of ancestral lands, historical rights, and millennia-old national yearnings, all of which he proceeds to critically undermine as either justifiable reasons for mastery over the land of Palestine/Israel or even representative of longstanding mass Jewish aspirations.
"Merkel sends strong message on November deal," said centre-left Ethnos daily.
This discordia concours defines manhood as a "double inscription": a descriptive ontological category, an irreducible ethnos (white, English, imperial) that constitutes "the essential predicate for possessing in full the rights and privileges of democratic citizenship," and a prescriptive ethical category, a theoretically universal ethos that enables "a certain mode of self-fashioning" and a set of personal and social values, chief of which are rationality, self-control and inner strength (9-10).
This raises the difficult question of how the commons in its traditional garb cannot be separated readily from the conception of ethnos, whose ambiguous role in the formation of nationalism and state-building is all too well-known, and how principled intellectuals might play an organic role in forging a counter-hegemonic discourse of the cosmopolitan commons.
Le ministre grec des Finances Yannis Stournaras a declare hier dimanche au quotidien Ethnos que les prochaines semaines etaient "cruciales" pour le maintien du pays dans la zone, si de nouvelles economies, reclamees par les creanciers UE et FMI, ne sont pas adoptees.
"The country is committed to implementing a series of measures and reforms to revive the economy and permanently remove the threat of bankruptcy," Stournaras told the Ethnos newspaper.
Greek Ethnos newspapers wrote that Greek officials refused Turkey's arguments by issuing a note to Turkey in return for Turkey's note to them.
A case in point occurs in chapter 4, where Destiny (1976), one of Edgar's earlier plays, is linked up nicely with Playing with Fire (2005) and Testing the Echo (2008) through Balibar's important notions of ethnos and demos.
While Greece's partners are openly discussing the country leaving the euro, a poll published on 19 February by the newspaper Ethnos showed that only 19.6% of Greeks surveyed were in favour of going back to the drachma - the country's national currency prior to Greece's accession to the eurozone in 2002.