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An ethnic group is a human population whose members identify with each other, usually on the basis of a presumed common genealogy or ancestry (Smith 1986). Ethnic groups are also usually united by common cultural, behavioural, linguistic, or religious practices.One way that ethnic groups form is when people are forced to, or voluntarily, move from one part of the world to another. Cultural differences that were important in their original homes are often collapsed or erased in their new home.Members of an ethnic group generally claim a strong cultural continuity over time, although historians and anthropologists have documented that many of the cultural practices on which ethnic groups are based are of recent invention (Friedlander 1975, Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983, Sider 1993). On the political front, an ethnic group is distinguished from a nation-state by the former's lack of sovereignty.

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In the West

In the West - Contents

In the collective, immigrants from a region of the world and their descendants are called "ethnic groups", often despite their lack of internal cohesion and common institutions and their inability to transmit language to the next generation. Immigrants are socialized into identifying as a member of one of the list of "ethnic groups" with various "traditions" which, although often of recent invention, appeal to some notion of the past. Thus Mexican nationals, upon crossing the border to the United States, sometimes become Hispanic .Definition:American Indian and Alaska Native. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment.Oddly, 90% of all people from Mexico have some American Indian origins. But, they do not maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment. This could be a major reason they are not classified as American Indian in the United States. It is the only race category on the US Census where a person must maintain their tribal affiliation or community attachment to be classified by the race they are.Mexico by race Population: 106,202,903 (July 2005 est.) Amerindian/mestizo 90 % (American Indian/Native American 30%) ("Mestizo" or mixed Amerindian-European 60%). white 9% other 1%Categories and data on "Ancestry" in the US are compiled on the following criteria from the U.S. Census Bureau: Ancestry refers to a person’s ethnic origin or descent, "roots," or heritage, or the place of birth of the person or the person’s parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States.In the West, the notion of ethnicity, like race and nation, developed in the context of European colonial expansion, when mercantilism and capitalism were promoting global movements of populations at the same time that state boundaries were being more clearly and rigidly defined. In the nineteenth century, modern states generally sought legitimacy through their claim to represent "nations." Nation-states, however, invariably include indigenous populations that were excluded from the nation-building project and such people typically constitute ethnic groups. Members of ethnic groups, consequently, often understand their own identity in terms of something outside of the history of the nation-state -- either an alternate history, or in ahistorical terms, or in terms of a connection to another nation-state.The Spaniards called the different indigenous communities of Mexico pueblos or naciones (communities or nations) depending on their size and importance. In contemporary Mexico, "ethnic group" refers to the surviving indigenous territorial communities that maintain their distinct language and political, economic and social systems. The Zapatista movement, which demands legal status for ethnic groups and their right to a common future as such, can only be understood with a definition of ethnic group as a territorial and social organization.Sometimes ethnic groups are subject to prejudicial attitudes and actions by the state or its constituents. In the twentieth century, people began to argue that conflicts among ethnic groups or between members of an ethnic group and the state can and should be resolved in one of two ways. Some, like Jürgen Habermas and Bruce Barry, have argued that the legitimacy of modern states must be based on a notion of political rights of autonomous individual subjects. According to this view the state ought not to acknowledge ethnic, national or racial identity and should instead enforce political and legal equality of all individuals. Others, like Charles Taylor and Will Kymlicka argue that the notion of the autonomous individual is itself a cultural construct, and that it is neither possible nor right to treat people as autonomous individuals. According to this view, states must recognize ethnic identity and develop processes through which the particular needs of ethnic groups can be accommodated within the boundaries of the nation-state.

Ethnicity - Contents

While ethnicity and race are related concepts ( Abizadeh 2001), the concept of ethnicity is rooted in the idea of social groups, marked especially by shared nationality, tribal affiliation, religious faith, shared language, or cultural and traditional origins and backgrounds, whereas race is rooted in the idea of biological classification of Homo sapiens to subspecies according to chosen genotypic and/or phenotypic traits.It is a term also used to justify real, adopted or imagined historic ties as well. In English, Ethnicity goes far beyond the modern ties of a person to a particular nation (e.g., citizenship), and focuses more upon the connection to a perceived shared past and culture. See also ethnic origin, Romanticism, folklore. In other languages, the corresponding terms for ethnicity and nationhood can be closer to each other.The 19th century saw the development of the political ideology of ethnic nationalism, when the concept of race was tied to nationalism, first by German theorists including Johann Gottfried von Herder. Instances of societies focusing on ethnic ties to the exclusion of history or historical context arguably have resulted in almost fanatical self-justifying nationalist and/or imperialist goals. Two periods frequently cited as examples of this are the 19th-century consolidation and expansion of the German Empire, and the Third Reich, each promoted on the theory that these governments were only re-possessing lands that had "always" been ethnically German. The history of late-comers to the nation state model, such as those arising in Near East and southeast Europe out of the dissolution of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires, as well as those arising out of the former USSR, is particularly plagued with inter-ethnic conflicts.The term "ethnicity" may also be used to refer to a particular ethnic group: "People of various ethnicities." Although this interpretation occasionally leads to an unfortunate state of misinformation, as in the case of those deriving from the many Spanish speaking nations of Central and South America, who can hardly be grouped into one ethnic group. Historically, the word "ethnic" signified "gentile," coming from the Greek adjective "ethnikos." The adjective is derived from the noun ethnos, which meant foreign people or nations. The noun "ethnic" ceased to be related to "heathen" in the early 18th century. The use of the term ethnic in the modern sense began in the mid-20th century.The word English word Ethnic(k) also used to mean "heathen" or "non-Christian", and is still used occasionally to mean that, although rarely.
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