Ethnic identites

Topics: United Kingdom, Race, Minority group Pages: 4 (1537 words) Published: February 10, 2014
In what ways are Ethnic identities important in contemporary Britain, and to whom, and why? The concept of ethnic identity calls for definition. The adjective “ethnic” relates to the fact of belonging to a certain human group, as defined by anthropological and cultural features. With such a wide meaning, the word and its derivative “ethnicity” raise issues as to their definition: there is no universally agreed definition on the term ethnicity. “Ethnicity refers to a group or community that is assumed to share common cultural practices and history. Religion, language and territory are all included in the term ethnicity” (Kath Woodward, 2004, p 124). As such, the concept is rather recent, as it appeared in sociological studies late in the nineteenth century. On the other hand, the concept of identity is more ancient, and is a direct product of Renaissance thinking, when thinking of human beings as specific, autonomous individuals rather than elements of a wider world, forever changed the way humans saw themselves. The Enlightenment stressed this trend even further when insisting on the specificity of human reason as the universal criterion for knowledge. Social awareness of the reality behind the words “ethnic identity” is a very recent fact of our societies. Historically, this appears to be a product of the post-colonial era, when former imperial nations experienced migratory flows from previous colonies. As a consequence, the word ethnic on its own has come to refer to people of black and Asian origin, often forgetting that it is also relevant to white people. As for identity, this term is often used to describe an individual's understanding of him or herself as a distinct and unique entity. Identity can also refer to whom we identify ourselves with, and our identity can be shaped by those whom we share comparisons to. (put quote in)

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