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Ethnicity

  • By: Emily Skop & Wei Li
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Although there is no definitive definition, most scholars increasingly agree that ethnicity derives from both an internal sense of distinctiveness and an external perception of difference. The category exists to classify various groups of people based on specific social and cultural characteristics, with the most typical identifier being ancestry. Although some researchers continue to assert the emotional, hereditary, and primordial origins of ethnicity, increasingly there is agreement that ethnicity can also be the product of structural forces, social organization, and cultural representation. In other words, ethnicity is a social construction, where individuals are active agents in defining their ethnicity, and at the same time, the category must be negotiated within a reactive, shifting social environment.

Ethnicity is situational and dynamic, with individuals sustaining and asserting their ...

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