Talk:Ethnicity

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Reading ethnicity and ethnic group, I find that both contain very similar information. And for good cause: they are basically the same subject. I suggest merging the two. DanKeshet 19:08, Jan 29, 2004 (UTC)

I wonder whether something about the Lord Denning ruling in the UK on ethnic and racial groups is worth including?

In terms of UK racial discrimination law it was important (as I recall he ruled that in legal terms an ethnic group and a racial group are the same thing). But a legal friend should perhaps add this part? BozMo(talk)

ethnos is very much a racial, genetical term. an ethnic, say, Italian, is somebody with genetical ties reaching back at least a couple of centuries, not somebody who was born and raised in Italy, has an italian passport and is part of italian culture. Sure enough, an 'ethnic group' needs a common culture to be seen as such. But if I am 'ethnic' $ETHNOS that means precisely that I am 'racially' $ETHNOS, whether or not I participate in their culture. So, yes, it would make sense to merge 'ethnicity' and 'ethnic group', but the 'genetic' part needs to be spelled out (e.g. Science-Fiction fans, as much as they are culturally a group will never be an ethnic group, unless they colonize a planet and intermarry for 400 years.) Dbachmann 11:43, 8 Aug 2004 (UTC)


I think we have to be careful here to point out that, individuals of a given ethnic group can join a different group, be accepted as a member of this new group and abandon their old identity.

I recently attended a conference in Quebec City on the presence of Scots, Irish, and English in New France, before the British conquest. It turns out that many people who think of themselves as old stock French Canadians may not be as 'French' as they think. Numerous orphans, prisoners, refugees, traders, visitors etc. ended up blending into the Quebec society. The very common family name 'Aubry' turns out to root back to an... 'O'Brien'! There was a surprising number of cases that were presented during the conference.

That is just to point out that if ethnic groups are communities of descent, it is not uncommon that they absord foreigners into their midst, and it would not be accurate to define ethnic groups in genetic or physical terms like 'race'. Racial groups are physically defined. Ethnic groups are culturally defined.

To know who belongs to what ethnic group, we must ask two basic questions: to what group does this person self-identities? To which group is this person identified to by others?

In the end, ethnic groups within humanity only exist in relation to each other. They are some kind of an historical product of relations between human communities. An ethnic group is a bunch of people who consider themselves to be a people and consider the others to be different from them (because of language, religion, customs, origin etc.).

well, I linked to ethnic from Varna (caste), where I believe I am using the word correctly:
In the framework of the "trifunctional hypothesis" of Georges Dumézil, the presence of four castes is seen as an indication that the lowest caste consists of the descendants of a subjugated indigenous people, while the original system would have included three castes, priests, warriors and peasants, comparable to the three classes, viz. clergy, nobility and peasants of medieval Europe. The supposed ethnic difference between the castes is supported by the word varna "colour" itself, referring to the darker complexion of the lower castes.
but I found that the Ethnicity article doesn't make clear my usage of the word. Note I'm not saying ethnic group, but ethnic, so the two terms might not be the same after all. The point is, that the castes at present form a single cultural group (Hindu etc.) but they are of different ethnicity originally. My understanding is, that a goup defined culturally is, well, a cultural group, or simply a culture. While ethnos is greek, nation is latin and race is english meaning one and the same thing. In actual usage, ethnos has indeed more of a cultural bend, though. Would you recommend I replace ethnic with racial in the above quote? But race tends to refer to larger groups, so that two people may be of one race but of different ethnicity... maybe these overlapping semantic fields should just be addressed in more detail, quoting actual, contrasting usage. Dbachmann 08:28, 9 Aug 2004 (UTC)

I really wonder about the lack of emphasis on physical distinctions that appears in this article. It is certainly true that differences in customs, religions, language and historical memory characterize ethnicity. It is also true that people who are largely indistinguishable in terms of appearance can belong to different, sometimes violently opposing, ethnic groups. However, we have to have some respect for common usage. What is very often meant by ethnicity are aspects of physical characteristics that, while clearly genetic in origin, do not divide people into the broadest racial classifications. Certainly a great many people would refer to Swedes and Italians as being of different ethnicity. I dont believe that this is commonly meant to refer entirely to self-identification or differences in culture, language, and customs. Frankly, the vast majority of people who would say that Swedes and Italians are ethinically distinct would mean that they look different. Certainly this is a well defined concept; if ethnicty isnt the word in the English language that refers to this concept, then what is? --Wtmgeo 02:43, 1 Jan 2005 (UTC)