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What does “ethnicity” mean to you? Are there other meanings?


Is "ethnicity" a neutral term ?


Generally a word used to refer to different racial or national groups which identifies them in virtue of their shared practices, norms and systems of belief. By terming groups “ethnic” they are usually implicitly identifies as being in a minority, and as possessing a different range of attitudes or traditions to the ones held and adhered to by the majority of a society’s members. In turn, “ethnicity” denotes the self-awareness on the part of a particular group of its own cultural distinctiveness. As is self-evident, the assertion of ethnic identity can be unifying or divisive in equal measure – often depending upon who is asserting it, of whom, and in which context. In some situations the self-aware possession of an ethnic identity could be a unifying experience (for instance, a point of focus for a given community). In other instances, the attribution of “ethnicity” might well be regarded as a provocative and injuring form of stereotyping embodying racism. Thus, the issue turns upon who actively designates one particular social grouping as “ethnic”: for to be defined as “ethnic” and to assert one’s own “ethnicity” are two very different things. In both cases, what is at stake may well be an issue of power, in so far as the affirmation of ethnicity can be read as an assertion of identity in the face of a social status quo, whereas to be defined in this way by “majority opinion” others may well be an oppressive manifestation of the power of more dominant forces and interests within a society. Related: ethnocentrism