Ethnicity - the identification of individuals with particular ethnic groups
Ethnic groups are usually limited to minorities; groups that are smaller than the dominant group in their society. The composition of an ethnic group, different life-styles or different levels of income or education may distinguish individuals within the same ethnic group from one another.
Ethnic groups- groups whose members share cultural traditions and values and a common language, and who distinguish themselves from other groups (Barth). And are seen by others as different. Often wear clothes as a symbol of difference, but are integrated into the wider community.
Ethnic groups share common cultural norms, values, identities, patterns of behaviour, and language. Their members recognise themselves as a separate group and are so recognised by others. They may / may not be politicised. Ethnic identity may be seen as based on "primordial" sentiment; i.e. sentiments which are seen as going back to ancient times and which tie group members to one another emotionally despite persistent attempts to assimilate them.
Sometimes the distinction between ethnic groups involves more than cultural differences. Race and racial classifications are involved when physical appearance is also a basis for making distinctions individuals or groups. Though many people tend to think of a "race" as a scientific concept based on biological systems of classification, it is in reality a cultural construct whose definition and form differ from society to society. For example, in Brazil, colour of complexion is but one element in the conceptualisation of status and group, while in the southern part of the United States an individual was categorised as white or African-American on the basis of complexion colour alone.
Religion may be one of the factors which serve to distinguish one ethnic group from another. When the occurs, the ethnic conflict is heightened and intensified. Each side finds support in the moral authority of its own religion for continuing the conflict and its violent action against those whom it characterises as infidels or heretics. Ethnic differences may also be class differences. In some societies, the underclass is a separate ethnic or racial group, and ethnic conflict may be explained as class conflict.
In other approaches, ethnic identification is seen as completely situational. In Europe, ethnic groups were often also territorially defined and wanted political autonomy.
Sometimes the distinction between ethnic groups involves more than cultural differences. Racial classifications, religion and class may be factors. So ethnic conflict may be based on any of these.
There may be many ethnic groups in one country or even in one city; e.g. Madagascar, which has some 18 different ethnic groups. (Polyethnic- made up of different ethnic groups).
In such societies, ethnicity is a means of social classification. People use it to anticipate, to evaluate- and sometimes to try and understand the behaviour of others.
Unfortunately, ethnicity can attract discrimination against members of ethnic groups, especially for urban ethnic minorities. The concept of ethnicity has proven useful to domestic government agencies and international organisations trying to assist ethnic minorities in polyethnic societies to advance themselves.
Rather than treating the inhabitants of a developing country as culturally homogenous, for instance, most international aid agencies now try to take into account the values, institutions, and customs of various ethnic groups, targeting relief or aid to their particular needs.
Ways people show that they are proud of their ethnic group:
- Behaving in a distinctive manner
- Living near one another
- Attending special functions
- Performing traditional rituals
- Wearing distinctive clothing
The Korean community of New Malden
- There are about 24,000 South Koreans in Britain, of whom 20,000 live in London and Surrey.
- There are signs of burgeoning Korean enterprise everywhere in New Malden: Korean restaurants, travel agents, supermarkets, opticians, hairdressers- even a Korean college where Koreans at British schools can keep up with the Korean curriculum.
- There is a growing tendency for the Koreans to find London, and in particular New Malden, so attractive that they decide never to return home, mostly because of the high quality of the education.
- Emigration restrictions were only eased in 1989, partly as a result of the Seoul Olympics the previous year. Since then, the number of Koreans in London has soared. They like it because it"s "a free country".
- Integration is not so easy. Korean students who come to London to improve their English can find that they spend three hours a day doing a course at Oxford Circus, speaking a small amount of broken English to other foreigners- but never get to know any English people.
- There are about 30 Korean Protestant Churches in London, one Korean RC church, and one Korean Buddhist Temple, as well as Korean Saturday schools in Chessington and North Ealing.
The Jewish community of Stamford Hill
- The men are instantly recognisable from their beards, black hats and long, black coats.
- These Jewish groups seem to create self-imposed ghettos and seek to maintain the kind of life which existed in the shetl of Eastern Europe. They speak Yiddish as well as English, and religious duties and practice are at the centre of their lives.
- The children are educated at private schools, of which at least 25 are scattered across Stamford Hill. These are named after towns and rabbinical dynasties in Poland, Russia, Romania and Hungary. Boys and girls are educated separately.
- Many members of the community have 10 or 12 children and it is estimated that, including children, it now numbers 16,000 in Stamford Hill with all its members living within walking distance of their small, informal synagogues, where they pray three times a day.
- They look on children as blessings. God will provide. What is special about this community is its commitment to the religious way of life, not letting go of a way of life which has existed for over 3,000 years.
- They do not allow the children to have the influence of the television and the media.