Culture and ethnicity are intersecting concepts, different but overlapping ways to categorize human populations. Culture refers to a group’s way of life, including the shared system of social meanings, values, and relations that is transmitted between generations. It incorporates such traits as language, religion, clothing, music, courtesy, legal systems, sports, tools indeed all learned behavior.

Ethnicity, which is a changeable and slippery concept of cultural distinctiveness, could be considered a subgroup of culture. It  typically denotes a group of people who strongly identify themselves as belonging together based on specific common traits they share. Such traits are largely involuntary- skin color, clan or tribe membership, perceived or actual common ancestry, shared history or language, and even disability or sexual orientation. Other traits may be chosen, abandoned, or changed. These include culture, religion or sect, age, dialect, marriage into a group, and so on.

Language is the most typical marker of ethnicity, but there are exceptions. Many speakers of Chinese cannot understand each other at all, for example, yet they may feel they all belong to the Han Chinese ethnic group. Many people of course, consider themselves to be “hyphenated” members of more than one group, such as Italian Americans or Welsh Canadians.

As boundaries of ethnic identification keep shifting, is it virtually impossible to name and number all the ethnic groups in the world. Such a list, however, would have well over 10,000 entries. It would include approximately 700 Aboriginal people living in western Australia,as well as the Han, numbering over one billion in China. Large or small, each ethnic group regards itself as a “people”.


15 thoughts on “Ethnicities

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