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6. Multi-Ethnic Societies

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Chapter Summary

In multi-ethnic societies peoples thought by themselves or others to have different historic identities and ways of life co-habit the same political space. The literature on multi-ethnic societies is vast, and this chapter concentrates on situations where ethnicity has become a political issue, where culture in the anthropologists' sense has been politicized, and its principal concern is ethnicity's governance. An initial account of the meaning of ethnicity discusses its relationship to race and surveys some theoretical approaches and concepts (primordialism, instrumentalism, constructivism, and boundary). Ethnic identities are neither predetermined, nor unchanging, but may have great subjective power. The chapter looks at two typical contexts: states where ethnic, regional or indigenous minorities have been conjoined in a single multi-national polity, and those where there has been large-scale immigration. In poly-ethnic states diversity is the result of (im)migration.

Keywords: ethnicity; large-scale immigration; multi-ethnic societies; multiculturalism; national identity; poly-ethnic states



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