Ethnicity

Definition
Ethnicity is the expression of the way people define or represent themselves. Ethnicity comprises for example, people's history, language, beliefs, religion, nationality, geographical region. (In the UK it could include British, English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, Cypriot, Jewish, Muslim etc.). Everyone has an ethnicity and is a member of an ethnic group. An ethnic group comprises those who share at least some cultural features. People with the same colour skin do not always share the same culture and vice versa (Tizard and Phoenix 1993). In a globalised world in which people are becoming more integrated the boundaries of ethnicity are
increasingly porous and are more difficult to define.

Commentary
This is a contested term which has been criticised as too vague. The focus on ethnicity has been seen by some (e.g. Sivanandan 1985) as a diversion from the key issue of racism. However, Hall (1992) provides the notion of ethnicity with some meaningful and credible use, whilst recognising that it is a contested concept.  He argues that we are all ethnically located and that our ethnic identities are crucial to our sense of self but that ethnicities cannot (should not) be hierarchically located.

Resources
Hall, Stuart  (1992) New Ethnicities. in ‘Race’, Culture and Difference. edited by James Donald and Ali Rattansi. London: Sage Publications (pp252-259)
 
Sivanandan, A. (1985) RAT and the degradation of the black struggle. Race and Class XXVI:4

 

Article published to :

Education

Curriculum Area, Early Years and Key Stages

Type of Resource

Glossary

Article Id :

308

Date Posted:

28/4/2004