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DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405168908.2010.x


The awareness sensed by a group of its cultural distinctiveness in contrast to other groups. Even the most remote societies observe and compare themselves with contrasting, neighboring societies; consequently, ethnicity is fundamentally a political phenomenon based on perceived differences between groups. Further, ethnic difference is almost always critically evaluated; one's own variety is usually seen as superior, an attitude termed ethnocentric. Since the advent of empires in the fifteenth century, it has been increasingly likely that societies will be incorporated into larger political entities. Though assimilation into the C ulture of the dominant group has often occurred, it appears much more frequent that groups are absorbed politically but not culturally. The result is ethnic groups occupying the position of a minority (or majority) within a larger, multiethnic political S tructure . In these multiethnic states, egalitarianism is uncommon. Ethnocentrism and its biological variant, R acism , are the rule; stable power sharing is not. Ethnic awareness focuses on the group's customs, conceptualized by social scientists as culture. Anthropologists describe in comprehensive terms the breadth of a group's culture, but since ethnicity is self-awareness, how members of a society define their distinctiveness will differ from what the anthropologist describes. Indeed, it may be politically ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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