What Is Ethnicity

An ethnic group is a human community that shares a set of sociocultural characteristics, as well as racial affinities. The word, as such, comes from the Greek  (ethnos), which means 'people.'

The ethnic groups have a common origin and a history and a tradition that unite as a people. They transmit from generation to generation their language, their customs, uses, values, beliefs, and institutions, as well as the set of artistic expressions that are part of their cultural heritage (music, dance, poetry, etc.).

In general, they are usually the original inhabitants of certain territories, so they are sometimes forced to declare or demand their sovereignty over them to avoid being displaced or annihilated by other invading ethnic groups.


Nowadays, many countries in the world, especially in Latin America, define themselves as multi-ethnic, since the State expressly recognizes the coexistence of several ethnic groups in its midst.


Such is the case of countries such as Bolivia, Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina or Venezuela.For its part, ethnology is the science that is dedicated to the study of the causes and reasons of customs and traditions that distinguish ethnic groups,


while ethnography is the discipline that is responsible for the descriptive study of the customs and traditions of the peoples. As such, both ethnology and ethnography are branches of anthropology.

It is incorrect, however, to use the concept of ethnicity as a synonym for the race, since the race is determined by biological factors, while factors of a sociocultural nature intervene in ethnicity.

Ethnicity And Race

Ethnicity and race are not equivalent concepts. Ethnicity refers to a human community that shares a series of socio-cultural features, such as language, culture, religion, institutions, values, customs, and racial affinities.

The race, however, refers to groups where a species is subdivided. It only considers aspects of a biological nature, as well as of a physical environment, associated with the phenotypic characteristics of individuals.

The ethnic groups, in this sense, differ from the races in that they are a human and cultural fact, while the tracks are a biological and natural fact that can be verified in other species.

Ethnic Identity, Nationalist Mania, And Multiculturalism As Racist Sprouts And Threats Against Humanity

It is a false concept. There is no identity, but history. Ethnically founded nationalism represents a particular case of ethnomania and, in democratic contexts, it always plays as an undemocratic and, therefore, reactionary force.   But they are historical realizations of the same universal cultural pattern, open to intercultural flow. Consequently, we must consider ethnicism,We need to refer to the whole, which also depends on the parts, some of which - like the human brain - reach a precise approximation of theirs, specific knowledge of the whole, perhaps as a synecdoche. What never fits is a total knowledge of the whole. There is no evidence of cosmic consciousness; although it seems reasonable that, if there is a whole universe, it is because it consists of some unity because it is a system in some sense and continues itself in temporal evolution. Now, between that expanding reality and the possible knowledge for human understanding mediates an insurmountable abyss.

. The claim to know the whole will always be a half-truth or a complete falsehood. The supposed entire experience cannot be but entirely wrong about itself. This applies to both physics and theology, going through biology and anthropology. Knowing will always be problematic and will require always correcting blurring.

Ethnic Identity, Ethnicity And Nationalism In The Contemporary World: The ‘Zulu’ Case

As a counterbalance to the intensification of global flows and the historical subordination of African peoples under colonial regimes, several phenomena tending to reclaim local ethnic identities have taken place in the last decades of the 20th century. New ethnopolitical organizations emerge that are configured to establish demands or claim ethnic rights. An example of this phenomenon is played by the “Zulu” ethnic group, in the province of KwaZulu / Natal. This categorization has been created since colonialism and has been sustained by classical anthropology.

Taking as a starting point the year 1994, in which the first multiparty and multiethnic elections were held in the Republic of South Africa, after the abolition of a the apartheid regime, we intend to follow up on the identity significations that have occurred in the Zulu ethnic group about their participation in national politics.

Based on a review, analysis and bibliographical reinterpretation, we consider that talking about ” lo Zulu” implies referring to a theoretical construction elaborated in two senses: from inside and outside the group, that is, from the bearers of the ethnic identity in question and the other signifiers, such as the Boers and the English. This construction comes from successive historical events and is presented as, a dialectical elaboration between Western society and the native society, the last of which has to create a model of supra-community identity that is useful and coherent with the new national panorama. A homogenizing stereotype is thus constructed that brings together a diversity of identity experiences under nationalist ideas.

The Zulu ethnic group belongs to the Bantus tibus, which reached the, area of southern Africa after a long migration from the Niger River delta, in West Africa, to the south and east, reaching the current Provincial KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), around 500 BC The particularity of this migration is that it was gradual, taking place in small groups that settled in different areas of the region. Some ended in the Highveld, others in northeastern South Africa, and others, the ancestors of the Nguni people (Zulus, Xhosa, Swazi and Ndebele), preferred to live on the coast. These groups not only raised cattle but also practiced agriculture, mainly harvesting wheat and other products (Schreaeder, 2000). In the new ethnopolitical organizations, ethnicity manifests itself exponentially, as they are configured to establish demands or claim ethnic rights.

To Conclude It Could Be Said That

  • Ethnicity presents two interrelated dimensions: a symbolic dimension related to aspects of meanings and a political dimension about elements of the experience. Ethnicity is not only given as a form of interaction between individuals but also has a sense for them, i.e., ethnicity has an organizational dimension, but it is also something that serves individuals to identify, the symbolic burden is at least as necessary as the corporate. When we refer to the nominal charge of ethnicity, we mention the capacity of ethnicity to create a social order that is related to specific interests. When we identify ourselves, we create an order based on a social situation, and we recognize ourselves in time.
  • Identity is a social product that emerges from the dialectic between the individual and society (Berger and Luck man). A character is seen as a result of part of the objectification and self-consciousness of the groups in situations of contrast or confrontation of their different cultures.
  • Ethnicity as a result of a historical process, in which some elaborated cultural elements work in the interaction to make the difference visible.
  • Ethnicity can be created from the outside and inside the group.
  • Modernization does not imply a loss of ethnic identity, but on the contrary, it sometimes supposes an exacerbation of it, and the conflicts derived from the construction of national states in the former colonies have led to ethnic groups being forced to build a nation nationally.
  • Ethnicity as a social organization and with an interactive purpose becomes an instrument that actors use.