Ways in Which Race and Ethnicity Relate to Culture
Essay title: Ways in Which Race and Ethnicity Relate to Culture
Ways in Which Race & Ethnicity Relate to Culture
Examining the ideas and beliefs within ones own cultural context is central to the study of Anthropology. Issues of Race and Ethnicity dominate the academic discourses of various disciplines including the field of Anthropology. Race and Ethnicity are controversial terms that are defined and used by people in many different ways. This essay shall explore the ways in which Anthropologists make a distinction between race and ethnicity and how these distinctions serve as frames for cross-cultural comparison and analysis. It is important to accurately define these coined terms before one is able to make accurate comparisons and distinctions between them, and their relation to the concept of culture. This essay attempts to produce accurate definitions of the concepts of race, ethnicity and culture, and the reasons why Anthropologists discredit the nature of particular views of these notions within Anthropological study. To create a deeper understanding of the distinction between racial and ethnic relations within the New Zealand cultural context, case studies and theories between the Maori and Pakeha population will be drawn upon.
The idea of лraceн is a problematic concept in various academic fields. In the discipline of Anthropology, the definition of this term carries much controversy. The concept of race that many people hold is in a sense, a social construct that changes amongst different cultures, one could look at different cultures to see racial definition as a cultural phenomenon in action (Kottak, 2000:139). King supports this idea that races are not established by a set of natural forces, rather they are products of human perception, мBoth what constitutes a race and how one recognises a racial difference are culturally determinedо (1981:156). Cashmore provides a brief definition of race as мa group of persons connected by common originо (1988:235). However, Cashmore goes on to argue that the terminology of race has been used to reflect changes in the understanding of physical and cultural differences (1988:235). Cornell and Hartman argue the characteristics that constitute a definition for the concept of race are complex. The authors claim that race can be categorised in social and physical terms. Race is a мhuman group defined by itself or others as distinct by virtue of perceived common physical characteristics that are held to be inherentЦ a group of human beings socially defined on the basis of physical characteristicsо (1988:24). The concept of race and the meanings associated with the term have continuously changed and evolved throughout history. Many negative connotations have been associated with the word race and these are evident as one reflects on the historical origins of the term.
Commonly the term race is closely connected to the notion of лracism.н Racism is a specific form of prejudice which focuses on physical variations between people. It describes the ideological belief that a person, or groups of people can be classified into лracesн which can be ranked in terms of superiority and inferiority (Spoonley, 1988:4). Giddens defines racism as мthe attribution of characteristics of superiority or inferiority to a population sharing certain physically inherited characteristicsо (1997:584). This supports the idea that racism is a manner of prejudice or animosity against people who have different physical characteristics. It is in virtue of circumstances such as these that Anthropologists find it necessary to make a distinction between the concepts of race and ethnicity.
In contrast to the idea of race, Ethnicity refers to ethnic affiliation, or the мcultural practices and outlooks of a given community of people that set them apart from othersо (Giddens, 1997:210). Members of a particular ethnic group see themselves as culturally distinct from other groups of people in a society or culture. There are different characteristics which serve as a way of distinguishing ethnic groups apart from others, which may include language, history or ancestry (Giddens, 1997:210).
Ethnicity is essentially an identity that reflects the cultural experiences and feelings of a particular group. According to Spoonley (1993), an ethnic group can be recognised if they incorporate common characteristics such as a real or supposed common ancestry, memories of a shared historical past, a distinctive shared culture, a collective name, a sense of solidarity and an association with a specific territory. Isaacs supports the idea of ethnic affiliation by referring to ethnic identity as лbasic group identity.н This, he wrote, мconsists of the ready-made
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