About the Course
The term ‘ethnicity’ is generally understood to mean a form of group identity based on shared cultural traits. There are mainly 2 approaches in defining ‘ethnicity’ - the primordial approach and the situational approach.
Clifford Geertz adopts a primordial perspective by emphasising the continued significance of premodern cultural traits to explain group attachment to their ethnic identity. He argues that the explosion of ethnic sentiments and movements in the contemporary world are the evidence to support his claim that ethnic identity is derived from affective ties such as the facts of birth or the givens of blood, race, language, and custom.
On the other hand, Fredrick Barth suggests a situational approach that views ethnicity as a relational and dynamic element caused by social interaction between groups. He uses the emergence of new ethnic groups demanding recognition and the incidence of individuals purposefully changing identities to suit their interests to support his claim that ethnic identity is based on instrumental manipulation of culture, motivated by collective political and economic interests. Thus, the primordial approach is a static concept that naturalises ethnicity, while the situational approach is a more fluid conceptualisation of ethnicity.
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