Friday, March 30, 2012

Ethnicity-Perspectives

Ethnicity as a subject is of great interest in anthropology and the study of nationalism is growing in importance.The major study in the field of ethnicity is done by Norwegian anthropologist Fredrik Barth who did field work in many parts of Asia and the Pacific.He developed his ideas in the introduction to his edited book Ethnic Groups and Boundaries which inspired  many to look at ethnicity not as a given but as something people define for themselves and negotiate like political power.Different points of emphasis have arisen.For example in the study of the post Communist Eastern Europe some have emphasized continuity with the old political structures whereas others emphasize new found national identities and connections with pre-communist ways of life.

Nationalism does not always imply a nation state and is often equated with ethnic identity.Scottish nationalism has an element of Scottish ethnic identity.Palestinian nationalism is related to Palestinian ethnicity as well as to the desire for an independent state.

According to Alan Barnard three main perspectives of ethnicity and nationalism have emerged.
Primordialist perspectives view ethnicity and nationalism as rooted in real characteristics of people and nation created by factors like biology,geography and language.

Instrumentalist perspectives see ethnicity and nationalism as creations of a political elite to serve their own purposes.

Constructivist perspectives see ethnic and national identities as products of particular situations.Individuals construct identities which are meaningful to them and which they can manipulate.

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