Is Ethnicity Always And Exclusively An Inherited Form Of Identification? - Anthropology - Research Essay

1837 words - 8 pages

Both collective and individual identity within ethnicity is complex, multifaceted, and in a state
of constant change and fluctuation. The self-perpetuating nature of ethnicity means it is frequently
subject to growth, development, and adaptation. The question of its exclusivity as inherited from
others who similarly identify within a certain ethnic category is one which needs to be unpacked
and understood in terms of personal identification, history, and collective solidarity within such
groups, and needs to be examined with an understanding of the ways in which ethnic identity
comes to and remains within existence for both the individual and the collective group. In this
essay, I will examine how ethnic identity is formed and how it is maintained, in order to explore
how ethnic identity is able to come into existence, and how ethnic identification engages with
otherness and the sense of self. This examination will ultimately conclude that, whilst it can be
on some occasions, ethnicity is not always and exclusively an inherited form of identification, and
rather ethnic identity arises from a multitude of factors which all engage with one another and
influence one another in order to shape the way an individual identifies within their ethnic group.
The formation of collective ethnic identity is one that occurs slowly over time and changes
based on circumstance and necessity. Further, the employment of certain ethnic markers over
others is critical to the survival of such identity, and such characteristics inadvertently become
more or less important to the personal identification within an ethnic category by the individual.
Johnson discusses the formation of ethnic identity in terms of collective kinship (1997, p. 258),
and the union that forms between individuals. This follows the model proposed by Frederik Barth,
of one of the cornerstones of ethnic identity being the underlying foundation of shared value
systems (1969, p.11), and Johnson remarks that even if biological relations are weak, it is in fact
the formation of a mutual understanding of their community bond which forms the backbone of
ethnic identity. To an extent, this is in fact an inherited form of identification - this collective
kinship discussed by Barth and Johnson is one that is formed through time and mutual
understanding and is thus inherited by generations through shared values, common cultural traits
(such as religious beliefs) and solidarity within a mutual struggle.

Further, pride in ethnic identity is inherited from older members of the ethnic community who are
able to share with others the barriers they have faced due to identifying within such an ethnicity,
and this provides a mechanism for the reinforcement of the sense of other in relation to wider
society. This creates an inherited form of identity, in which individuals understand they are part of
one ethnic category due to their biological relations and the shared cultural values wh...

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