Ethnic Group - History

Ethnic Group - History

Ethnic group - group of people who are part of a common and distinctive culture. An ethnic group can be determined on the basis of a complex set of characteristics, including race, nationality, religion, ancestry, and language.

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Difference between “Ethnic Group” and “Tribe”

Anthropologist and consultant Dr. Whitney Azoy answered the following question on Afghanistan.

What do the words “ethnic group” and “tribe” mean with regard to Afghanistan?

Good question for two reasons. First, because the two words are often confused by outsiders. Second, because both concepts are of enormous importance.

“Ethnic group” is the largest traditional cultural unit to which any Afghan belongs. Examples include Pashtun (a plurality but not a majority), Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Turkoman, Nuristani, etc. Each of these has its own history, language, and home region. In the post-1978 period of chaos, each ethnic group has also produced its own leaders, some of whom are described as “warlord” by outsiders and as “champions” by group members.

“Tribe” refers – should properly refer – to a ethnic sub-set within which all or most human activities are organized on the basis of kinship. Tribal peoples interact with each other primarily in term of family relationships, both by descent and by marriage. Most Afghans are no longer tribal. The main exception is found in the so-called “Pashtun Belt” where family ties remain exceptionally strong. Here is the main reason why combating the Pashtun Taliban is so difficult on their own turf.


The Rwandan conflict (1992) was a result of internal conflict between the Hutus (cultivators) and Tutsis (herdsmen) in Rwanda. A clear case of genocide, the Hutus murdered over 800,000 Tutsis in only 100 days (mostly through the use of machetes), and eliminated nearly 70 percent of the Tutsi population in Rwanda. In addition to nearly a million deaths, approximately two million Rwandans were displaced because of the conflict and were forced to reside in numerous refugee camps across the region.

The conflict was a direct result of social divisions that had been implemented by colonial German and Belgium rulers in prior years. Colonial authorities often favored Tutsi citizens over the Hutus when it came to assigning administrative duties to the local population. The colonial rulers (Germany) believed that the Tutsis were ethnically superior because it was believed that they were direct descendants of Ethiopia, and promulgated this belief in many of their social, economic, and political policies in Rwanda. Belgian forces continued many of these policies after they took control of Rwanda during the First World War. Through the implementation of identification cards, Tutsis continued to maintain many of their social privileges within Rwanda, whereas Hutus were largely excluded to political office or administrative functions due to their low social-class ranking. As a result of colonial policies such as these, conflict between the Hutus and Tutsis was inevitable by the end of the 20th century, as years of resentment boiled over into full-fledge hostility.


Ethnic Group - History

The Creole of Belize share a common ancestry, they are the offspring of African slaves imported to work the logging camps and European adventurers. Most of the slaves came from West African (between the present countries of Senegal and Angola) by way of Jamaica. Many of the Europeans came from Scotland and North Britain. While the majority of the Creole population claim a slave/European ancestry, East indians, Mestizos, Asians and Garinagu have all intermarried with Creoles and have adapted the Creole culture.

The word "Creole" comes from the Portuguese "criar" meaning "to raise a child born into a family". As the Portuguese expanded their empire into Brazil, the word mutated to "crioulo" with a meaning of African slaves born into the New World. Eventually the meaning included Europeans born into the New World. Today, the word defines the language and tradition of the African-European community. Belizean Creoles have created the word "kriol" to mean the language of the Creoles.

In addition to standard English, Creoles in Belize speak the "Kriol" language, considered by some as a completely distinct language evolved from but no longer a dialect of English. Creole traditions in Belize are a collection of cultural aspects from many other ethnic groups. For example, their proficiency at dory (small wooded canoes) building was inherited from the Miskito Indians their love of Cricket and sports comes from the English and the Anancy stories brought with the slaves from Africa.

Just as many Creole traditions are derived from other cultures, so the food has been adopted from other ethnic groups. From the Mestizos comes chimole, escabeche and panadas. From Africa comes bambam and dukunu. The Creoles love coconut milk and use it to prepare the staple rice and beans, fish stew and Creole bread.

Even after the abolition of slavery, the Creoles continued to work the logging camps. Today, this tendency is reflected in the location of the dominant Creole towns - Monkey River and Punta Gorda - along waterways and the coast.

Under British colonialism in the 1800's, thousands of people in India had become unemployed. Many were starving because of droughts and increased food prices. Between 1844 and 1917, British landowners brought East Indians from Jamaica and India to work on logwood and sugar plantations as indentured servants.

Under the indenture system a person was encouraged to come to the Caribbean to work for a "master" for a certain number of years. After that he was free to work as he pleased. But too often circumstances forced him to "re-indenture" themselves, and agree to work for a further number of years.

The exact number of indentured labourers brought to Belize is not known. However, the numbers were never large. The census of 1891 lists only 291 persons living in the colony who were born in India. East Indians were put to work in the sugar estates in the Toledo and Corozal districts. Their descendants can still be found in areas such as Calcutta in the Corozal District and Forest Home in the Toledo District. They have now largely become "Creolized" (see above).

More recently, in the 1970's, a small number of East Indians have migrated and settled in areas near Punta Gorda, Belize City, and Orange Walk Town, but have no cultural ties with the descendants of earlier immigrants. They tend to be tradesmen, merchants and service providers.

A group of Chinese workers were originally imported as labourers and farm workers in 1865. They were first sent to Northern Belize, but met hostility with the mestizos already settled in the area. In 1866, they were quickly transferred to Toledo. The majority of todays Chinese population stems from immigration that has occurred since just before WW II . Today, Punta Gorda has the second largest population of Belizean Chinese after Belize City.

All Chinese share a common written language, but spoken Chinese differs in dialect from place to place. A Chinese speaking one dialect may not understand a different dialect, and the tow must resort to written Chinese to communicate. The young Chinese in Belize appear to be loosing their ability to converse in Chinese, and gradually spoken Chinese may die out in Belize.

Many of the older generation Chinese in Belize practice a form of Ancestral worship and Buddhism. Most younger generations have converted to Catholicism. Vegetables make up a major part of the Chinese diet. Except for turnips, ground crops such as potatoes and cassava are not eaten. Surprisingly, the Chinese do not eat beans, though rice cooked without salt or animal fat is a staple.

Just as the younger generations are loosing the language of their ancestors, so specific Chinese traditions are slowly being lost as the Chinese community is fully integrated into Belizean society. Yet, some customs remain. A child's one-month birthday is celebrated - it will be the last. Annual birthdays are not observed. No ancestral rites are performed at death, though offerings of food and the burning of "joss sticks" (similar to incense sticks) on the grave is still observed. Also, the eldest male child customarily receives twice the inheritance of any other child in return for complete obedience to hist father's wishes.


Ethnicity and race [ edit | edit source ]

Before Weber, race and ethnicity were often seen as two aspects of the same thing. Around 1900 and before the essentialist primordialist understanding of ethnicity was predominant, cultural differences between peoples were seen as being the result of genetically inherited traits and tendencies. ⎰] This was the time when "sciences" such as phrenology claimed to be able to correlate cultural and behavioral traits of different populations with their outward physical characteristics, such as the shape of the skull.

With Weber's introduction of ethnicity as a social construct, race and ethnicity were divided from each other. A social belief in biologically well-defined races lingered on. In 1950, the UNESCO statement, "The Race Question", signed by some of the internationally renowned scholars of the time (including Ashley Montagu, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Gunnar Myrdal, Julian Huxley, etc.), suggested that: "National, religious, geographic, linguistic and cultural groups do not necessarily coincide with racial groups: and the cultural traits of such groups have no demonstrated genetic connection with racial traits. Because serious errors of this kind are habitually committed when the term 'race' is used in popular parlance, it would be better when speaking of human races to drop the term 'race' altogether and speak of 'ethnic groups'." ⎱]

In 1982, American cultural anthropologists, summing up forty years of ethnographic research, argued that racial and ethnic categories are symbolic markers for different ways that people from different parts of the world have been incorporated into a global economy:

The opposing interests that divide the working classes are further reinforced through appeals to "racial" and "ethnic" distinctions. Such appeals serve to allocate different categories of workers to rungs on the scale of labor markets, relegating stigmatized populations to the lower levels and insulating the higher echelons from competition from below. Capitalism did not create all the distinctions of ethnicity and race that function to set off categories of workers from one another. It is, nevertheless, the process of labor mobilization under capitalism that imparts to these distinctions their effective values.

According to Wolf, races were constructed and incorporated during the period of European mercantile expansion, and ethnic groups during the period of capitalist expansion. ⎲]

At present the prevailing understanding of race among social scientists is that it is, like ethnicity, a social construct. ⎳] ⎴] Often, ethnicity also connotes shared cultural, linguistic, behavioural or religious traits. For example, to call oneself Jewish or Arab is to immediately invoke a clutch of linguistic, religious, cultural and racial features that are held to be common within each ethnic category. Such broad ethnic categories have also been termed macroethnicity. ⎵] This distinguishes them from smaller, more subjective ethnic features, often termed microethnicity. ⎶] ⎷]


3. Exceptions

The Government Statistical Service’s (GSS) harmonised principles for ethnicity recommends that the 18 official ethnic groups are used whenever the government carries out social surveys or collects administrative data.

A single, standardised list makes it easier to analyse ethnicity data wherever it is collected.

Not all departments and organisations use the standardised list, for example if:

  • they need data on some ethnic groups, but not others
  • they want their data to be consistent with data they’ve collected previously, which uses different ethnic groups
  • the low number of people surveyed in some ethnic groups means data has to be combined to make it more reliable, or to protect individual identities

The dashboard of ethnic categories shows that around 20 different ethnicity classifications are used on Ethnicity facts and figures.


History of the Ethnic Groups

Another reason that Sarawak becomes a famous tourist spot is because of its ethnic groups. The Dayaks are divided into 450 groups around the South-East Asia countries. There are more than 25 groups of Dayak tribes in Malaysia. Even so, most of them gather around the Borneo area, that is Sarawak. Due to the rapid development of technology and Science, some of them are forced to abandon their cultures and traditional lifestyles. However, most of them still preserve their cultures, so that they will not be dead. Sarawak has various kind of ethnic groups with different languages, cultures, lifestyles, costumes, food and traditional ceremony.

These are the Dayak Iban and Dayak Bidayuh in Sarawak:


“Dayak Iban”


“Dayak Bidayuh”

The origin of Iban can be traced back to Yunnan China. The name “Iban” was given to them by the Kayans, an adaptation of the word “ivan”, which means immigrant or wanderer. They are believed to have migrated to Sarawak from Indonesian Borneo, choosing to settle along the banks of the main rivers and their tributaries which serve not only as their source for water, but also as a means of communication. The first Iban settlements were at Lubok Antu, but by the early 1900s they spread out as far across the state as the Limbang, Tatau and Kemena Rivers. The Ibans are traditionally farmers, largely depending on rice cultivation for their livelihood. On the contrary, they were largely known for their fierce reputation as warriors, particularly because of their headhunting tradition. more

The history of the Bidayuh can be both meaningful and eventful. It was believed that the Bidayuhs migrated from Kalimantan Barat Indonesia to Sarawak long time ago. However, there are some who claimed that their ancestors were the original inhabitants of Sarawak. The Bidayuhs are known as the “Land Dayak”, because of their peace-loving and timid nature. They are also known as land people due to their ethnic group name. “Bi” means ‘people’ and “dayuh” literally means ‘land’. The Bidayuhs live in the rural areas and undertake agricultural pursuits. Besides that, during the rule of Sultan Brunei, the Bidayuhs were forced to work hard. The worst thing was the Bidayuhs were always targeted and attacked by other tribes, which lead to the reduction of their group size. Only when James Brooke took over Sarawak, there was peace among the ethnic groups. Much like other ethnic groups, the Bidayuhs also carry on with animalism as their belief before the arrival of Christianity. more


The Formation of Solidarity

Although justice was not served in this case, Vincent's murder galvanized the entire Asian American community like no other incident before it. It resulted in the formation of numerous Asian American community organizations and coalitions whose purpose was to monitor how Asian Americans were treated and to mobilize any and all resources available to fight for justice. Asian Americans saw firsthand how anti-Asian prejudice and hostility operated, both at the personal physical level and at the institutional level.

Since then, groups (such as those listed in the left column) have documented numerous incidents of hate crimes committed against Asian Americans. NAPALC's 1999 Audit of Violence Against Asian Pacific Americans points out that there was a 13% increase of reported anti-Asian incidents between 1998 and 1999. It found that South Asians were the most targeted among Asian Americans and that vandalism was the most common form of anti-Asian discrimination. This is reinforced by recent anti-Asian vandalism at Stanford University that included such threats as "rape all oriental bitches," "kill all gooks," and "I'm a real white american."

Similar incidents and anti-Asian threats have also occurred and continue to occur at college campuses all around the country. What makes the situation worse are the apathetic, half-hearted, and even insensitive responses on the part of the authorities, in this case university officials. Even in rare instances when they admit that racial tensions are a problem on their campus, university leaders are slow to respond appropriately. Administrators consistently fight efforts to mandate classes on multiculturalism for all students even though research shows that these classes promote increased understanding and respect among students.

Secondly, they resist students' efforts to promote or even establish Asian American and other racial/ethnic studies programs. This is despite the fact that at almost all major universities around the country, it's common for Asian American students to comprise 15%, 25%, or even 50% of their students (i.e., U.C. Irvine). Students at Wellesley College, regarded as one of the elite women's colleges in the country, recently planned to go on a hunger strike to demand that their administration fulfill its earlier promises of strengthening its Asian Americans studies program. At the last minute, Wellesley officials gave into the students' demands.

Incidents of anti-Asian intimidation and physical attacks are sickening by themselves. They are often made worse when the authorities in charge don't take the appropriate actions to address them.


What is your ethnic group's or ethnic groups' history? I mean in terms of the modern era. I ask because quite a lot of ethnic dispora took place from the last few centuries to the last few decades. British (Especially), German, French and Spanish dispora across both the Old World and the New World. Indians, Malays, Chinese, Japanese and Koreans and a bunch of descendents of various Bantu ethnicites.

My Italian ancestors migrated in the late 1800s to early 1900s to the Eastcoast in Maryland near DC where they essentially lived off the land and cultivated some of it. They mainly kept to themselves, the men working in lower paying manual laboring jobs.

My Jamaican side (way back in the past) I have distant descendants of Bantus brought from West Africa to work on sugar cane plantations. From there the Jamaicans intermixed with British overseers and masters who brought over Indian and Cantonese peoples to make most modern Afro-Jamaicans. Can't really go more recent than that since I never knew my real father, just his nationality.


Full Text

An ethnic group is a group of people who identify with each other through a common heritage, which generally consists of a common culture and shared language or dialect. The group’s ethos or ideology may also stress common ancestry, religion, or race.

In the United States of America, the term “ethnic” carries a different meaning from how it is commonly used in some other countries. This is due to the historical and ongoing significance of racial distinctions that categorize together what might otherwise have been viewed as ethnic groups. For example, various ethnic, “national,” or linguistic groups from Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands, Latin America, and Indigenous America have long been combined together as racial minority groups (currently designated as African American, Asian, Latino and Native American or American Indian, respectively).

While a sense of ethnic identity may coexist with racial identity (Chinese Americans among Asian or Irish American among European or White, for example), the long history of the United States as a settler, conqueror, and slave society, and the formal and informal inscription of racialized groupings into law and social stratification schemes has bestowed upon race a fundamental social identification role in the United States.

Examples of Overlapping Racial and Ethnic Categories in the U.S.

Ethnicity in U.S. therefore usually refers to collectives of related groups, having more to do with physical appearance, specifically skin color, rather than political boundaries. The word “nationality” is more commonly used for this purpose (e.g. Italian, Mexican, French, Russian, Japanese). Most prominently in the U.S., Latin American descended populations are grouped in a “Hispanic” or “Latino” ethnicity. The many previously designated “Oriental” ethnic groups are now classified as the “Asian” racial group for the census.

The terms “Black” and “African-American,” while different, are both used as ethnic categories in the U.S. In the late 1980s, the term “African American” came into prominence as the most appropriate and politically correct race designation. While it was intended as a shift away from the racial injustices of America’s past often associated with the historical views of the “Black” race, it largely became a simple replacement for the terms Black, Colored, Negro and similar terms, referring to any individual of dark skin color regardless of geographical descent.

The term Caucasian generally describes some or all people whose ancestry can be traced to Europe, the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, North Africa, Central Asia, and South Asia. This includes European-colonized countries in the Americas, Australasia, and South Africa, among others. All the aforementioned are categorized as part of the “White” racial group, as per U.S. Census categorization. This category has been split into two groups: Hispanics and non-Hispanics (e.g. White non-Hispanic and White Hispanic. )


Fifteen Largest Ancestries in the 2000 Census
Top ancestries recorded in 2000.


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