Category talk:Ethnicity

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In the context of these pages, ethnicity and/or ethnic identity shall be defined as an identification category, which, unlike other sociological identification categories (age, sex etc.) does not have clearly defined boundaries. These boundaries in some instances and according to a particular situation can be and are manipulated by the incumbents to suit their own interests. As a category of identification, ethnicity is also a combination of self-identification and identification by others and these two may or may not coincide. While the basis for self-identification is the belief in common descent, common cultural traditions including language and religion, as well as memories of migration, colonization or conquest, identification by others is based primarily on the physical, cultural and behavioural characteristics which are most obviously different or are perceived to be different from those of the identifier. This of course varies according to the situation and context. For example, a person may see himself or herself as an Ibo, Yoruba or Shanti while in North America or in Europe he or she will be perceived as simply "black" or African. Similarly, a person may consider herself or himself to be a Swede, Irish, Czech or Russian, but in Africa or India , she or he may be perceived to be "white" or European. This principle applies to individuals as well as to groups of individuals. On a personal or an a group level, individuals can and do manipulate their own identity according to the logic of the situation, as they perceive it. An Indian immigrant from Fiji if asked about his ethnic identity in Canada may identify herself/himself as an Indian, Fijian, Indian-Canadian, Fijian-Canadian, Canadian, British Colombian or may agree to be lumped into a psychological or sociological survey category of Indo-Pakistani. This of course would all depend on the logic of the situation, as she/he perceives it. This can be described as a Weberian approach to ethnicity, emphasizing the political and manipulative aspect of that category (Abner Cohen, in "The Leson of Ethnicity", A. Cohen Ed. URBAN ETHNICITY, Tavistoc Publications, London, 1974). Ethnicity, therefore, as understood here, is not a deterministic fixa but rather a tool for social action used by rational human beings. In Max Weber's own words: "any cultural trait, no matter how superficial, can serve as a starting point for the familiar tendency for monopolistic closure" (M. Weber, Economy and Society, University of California Press, Berkley. 1978:388). Ethnic membership does not, however, by itself constitute an ethnic group. It only facilitates, or is used as the basis for the formation of groups, particularly those politically oriented (citation needed). According to Weber, the belief in common ethnicity "ethnische gemeinsamkeitsglaube" is strongly inspired by the political community "politische Gemeinschaft", interested in promotion of self-interests (Weber, 1978:389). Ethnic membership or ethnic affinity in itself is insufficient to transform itself into an ethnic group even though an affinity automatically assumes disaffinity or exclusion from some other ethnic memberships. There has to be an individual, or a group, which can articulate ethnic aggregate's interests in order to transform it into an ethnic group with the concrete social action. One of the most important prerequisites for this to occur, is the mutual intelligibility of the behaviour of members, which is usually, but not necessarily facilitated by the common language, religious beliefs and customs. According to Weber, these elements of diversity are similar if not the same, as the elements, which determine status differences. Behind these ethnic diversities, however, there always seems to be present a notion of "chosen people" which is only a pendant to status differentiation expressed in horizontal co-existence. While status differentiation rests on subordination, ethnic repulsion may take hold of all conceivable differences, some of which can become then a symbol of ethnic membership, such as hairstyle, beard style, turban, yarmulke, etc. When the group, formed on the bases of ethnic membership, persists over a long period, it can evolve into a category of nation, which shares many characteristics with the category of ethnicity, the most important of which is the belief in common origin. In fact, E.K. Francis in his 1947 article "The Nature of Ethnic Groups", AJS, 52, 392-400, refers to ethnicity as "a nationality without consciousness". Nationality should not, however, be confused with citizenship. People with the same citizenship may have different nationalities as for example in the former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union . In the English speaking world nationality seems to be synonymous with citizenship. This leads to some confusion, as for example in Canada, where it is proper to refer to the Aboriginal population as First Nation, but from the English-Canadian point of view, inappropriate to use term nation for the French in Quebec . A similar situation exists with respect to language. Common language is considered to be a basis for nationality but the autonomous polity or a "Nation state" may or may not be based on the common language. A nation state with one official and common language (Germany, Japan, France, Denmark etc.) may exist next to a nation state with multiple official languages to satisfy the needs of different ethnic or national entities within it (Switzerland, India, Belgium, Canada, former Yugoslavia etc.)

(See also: Harry Vjekoslav Herman,Ph.D. "Dishwashers and Proprietors" in Sandra Wallman Ed. ETHNIOCITY AT WORK, The Macmillan Press Ltd, London 1979:86) Also: —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 01:38, 22 November 2005 (UTC) Herherman