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Ethnicity: BA Sociology

Revati Ahuja

I am an above average student who has done her master's in mass communication from prestigious Ajk MCRC,...

Q. Examine the context of the rise of ethnic nationalism and the approaches that aim to resolve them.Major regions and the sub-regions of the world have experienced some form of ethnic nationalism and conflict. The similarity between the plural states of South Asia and the enormous challenge of national... read more

Q. Examine the context of the rise of ethnic nationalism and the approaches that aim to resolve them.

Major regions and the sub-regions of the world have experienced some form of ethnic nationalism and conflict. The similarity between the plural states of South Asia and the enormous challenge of national integration that each of them faces from ethnic- nationalist turbulence and violent ethnic conflict.

India has faced myriad ethnic problems since independence which has undermined the national unity and morale, retarded development and destroyed countless lives. The most vicious and secessionist ethnic war in the world can be found in Sri Lankan history. The problems between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils-Eelam. The Sri Lankan Tamils were represented by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) and have been demanding a separate and independent state for Tamil-Eelam as they feel only then their national and ethnic identity can be protected. The Tamil demand for refused by the Sinhalese community and by the Sri Lankan government. Thus there does exist an ongoing fight between the two communities which has had great economic, social, environmental and human loss.

The manifestation of ethnic turmoil and conflict requires a re-assessment of the “nation building approaches” in the regions of South-Asia. Given the plurality of South-Asia and the world, the post-colonial nation-building approaches focussed exclusively on creating a unified national identity-based in either common political values and citizenship or a putative majoritarian “ethnic” identity. In this context whenever the state elites have taken the cause of the so-called peripheral minorities (religious, linguistic, regional or other), the result has been either violent partition/secession or the emergence of ethnonationalism movements that have attempted to achieve those ends.

Let us first define “Ethnicity “ given by J.M Yinger “ An ethnic group is a segment of larger society whose members are thought to themselves or others, to have common origin and to share important segments of a common culture and who, in addition, participate in shared activities in which common origin and culture are significant ingredients. Yinger says sociologically and psychologically important ethnicity needs to be distinguished administrative or classificatory ethnicity. These are also called “hard” and “Soft “ethnicities. The former connects directly with many aspects of the lie, the latter is marginal. A hard ethnic order is thoroughly institutionalized with clear separating boundaries and strong ideology. A soft ethnic order has blurred permeable lines, incomplete institutionalization and an ambivalent ideology.

The definition of ethnic group Yinger has suggested has three ingredients:

i. The group is perceived by others in the society to be different in some combination of the following traits: language, religion, race and ancestral homeland with its related culture.
ii. The members also perceive themselves as different.
iii. The members participate in shared activities built around their real or mystical common origin and culture.

Ethnic groups can also be defined as either a large or a small group of people , in either backward or advanced societies, who are united by a common inherited culture (including language, music, food, dress and customs and practices), racial similarity, common religion and beliefs in common history and ancestry and who exhibit a strong psychological sentiment of belonging to the group. These ethnic groups can be of two types: Homelands societies and Diaspora communities. Ethnic groups are considered as homelands societies when they are the long-time occupants of a particular territory and thereby claim an exclusive as well as moral right to rule it. Ethnic Diaspora communities, one the other hand is found in foreign countries. They are caused by population migration, induced mainly by oppression in their home state or by an attraction of better economic prospects and opportunities. Unlike homelands societies, they cannot claim credible control territorial control in a foreign state. They normally demand “nondiscriminatory” participation as individuals in public affairs. eg voting, office holding, access to justice etc.

Nation has a variety of meanings, close to a country united by a single government, society or a state or in some cases synonymous with ethnic groups. But the dictionary also defines a nation as “peoples connected by supposed ties of blood generally manifested by a community of language, religion, and custom and by a sense of common interest and interrelations. This definition can also be used for defining an “ethnic group”.

Nation “will refer to an ethnic group with a history of and a strong desire for sovereignty over a territory." Such groups are called “nonstate nations" some of which are autonomous and distinctive that they might cross the line separating the ethnic group from the state before they become formalized. For example Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Georgia in U.S.S.R, Croatia and Slovenia in Yugoslavia or Quebec in Canada. These have not become nation-state but each is now multi-ethnic and it is unlikely that redefinition of boundaries or any amount of migration, voluntary or forced could produce ethnically homogeneous populations. The dominant ethnic group in an area seeking autonomy tends to seek both territorial and cultural separation, often overlooking o disregarding the interests or desires of the smaller groups thus creating a deepening cleavage within the new sovereign boundaries.

It is not wise to see “nation" simply as a synonym for “ethnic group” yet we recognize the extensive overlap in their meaning and in their usage. The aim of ethnic conflict and demand for statehood is to be noticed; search for identity, a demand that the identity is publically acknowledged. The other aim is practical: it is a demand for progress, for rising standard of living, more effective political order, greater social justice and exercising influence.

The boundaries of states in Africa, in most instances, were drawn by European powers based on achieving the balance of power than to correspond with any ethnic order based on cultural and lingual variation. Many civil wars have followed independence as diverse groups within these states have sought sovereignty. For national boundaries drawn irrespective of ethnic identities lead to violence, civil war etc where loss of human life is great. Therefore ethnic groups also need to be viewed separately from nation or nation-states. Theoretically, a state is a natural outgrowth of national self-determination. In Africa and America, western colonization created multi-ethnic states without first ascertaining the political aspirations of the constituent ethnic groups. State building occurred followed by building a political nation that would supersede hundreds of ethnic nations within a nation-state. An ethnic nation expresses sentiments of loyalty towards the nation and can be said to demonstrate the spirit of ethnonationalism

The manifestation of ethnic nationalism leading to conflicts requires an analysis of the nation-building approaches in the world. In South-Asia given the ethnic plurality, postcolonial nation-building approaches focussed almost exclusively on creating a unified "national identity" based on either command political values and citizenship or a putative majoritarian “ethnic identity”. The overall aim of both approaches has been to produce a pulverized and uniform sense of national identity to coincide with state boundaries that seldom reflect ethnic divisions on the ground. This type of outlooks towards nation building was promoted by the "modernization school of thought" which refused to accept the notion that states incorporating more than one "ethnic notion" could be both stable and harmonious.

Now let us examine the way ethnic identities get formed and the reason they persist for a long time. Scholars have dived opinion and primarily there are two schools of thought on this subject, the primordial school, and the constructivist school. The Primordialist school considers ethnic identity to be biologically given or a natural phenomenon. Understood in this sense, ethnic groups constitute the kinship network into which human individuals are born and become members of, thereby coming to acquire with other group members, the group's territory and objective cultural attributes such as language, race, religion, customs, traditions, food, dress, and music. The psychological aspect of self and group related feelings of identity distinctiveness and its recognition are crucial elements of ethnic determinants and common solidarity.

The constructivist school categorically rejects the primordial argument that ethnic identity is a biological natural phenomenon. By attributing them as natural, the process of human intervention, motivations behind such constructions are obscured and removed. The disadvantaged are denied recourse. Constructivists, therefore, content that ethnic or national identity is socially constructed, that it is a product of processes which are embedded in human actions and choices rather than biologically given ideas whose meaning is dictated by nature. Weber thus regarded ethnic groups as based more on a set of beliefs (about common ancestry) and not on any objective features of group membership such as shared language or biological traits. In the context of South-Asia, it is impossible to overlook the social construction of ethnic identity because if the vertical and horizontal differentiation that exist among ethnic groups. Vertical differences refer to the hierarchical rankings given to different cultural markers by a group in asserting its separate identity. Example, at any given time, an ethnic group may assign more importance to language than other markers like food, music, descent.

Political historians have argued that nationalism originated as a political ideology in post-medieval Europe and was later “imitated" around the world when educated elites and members of the intelligentsia importer the nationalist idea from Europe to their respective lands. Political philosophers developed Kantian ideas into a nationalist political philosophy whose main propositions were:

    i. Humanity is naturally divided into nations.
    ii. Each nation has its peculiar character.
    iii. The source of all political power is the nation.
    iii. For freedom and self-realization, people must identify with a nation.
    iv. Nations can only be fulfilled in their own states.
    v. Loyalty to the nation-state overrides other loyalties.
    vi. The primary condition of global freedom and harmony is the strengthening of the nation-state.

According to Anthony Smith, unlike Marxism, the core proposition of the nationalist doctrine neither furnish a complete theory of social change and political action nor define the unit population which can claim and enjoys its own state and government. The doctrine leaves open the forms of self-determination as well as the content of the expression of national individuality. The idea of the nation gave rise to the principle of “national self-determination: where people collectively because they formed a nation had a right to determine their own political fate." This doctrine assumed that humanity is not only divided by gender but also by nationality.

Nation building proceeded on two main tracks. In France and England, the nation came to be understood in a political or civic sense; that I “as a community of politically aware citizens equal before the law irrespective of their social and economic status, ethnic origin and religious beliefs." The civic nation comes into existence when the population of a given territory perceives itself to be a nation and equates citizenship with nationality.

In contradiction to the civic nation, in other parts of the world "development of ethnic and cultural nation" came into being. The development of the ethnic or cultural nation, which envisioned the creation of the nation not based upon any common political values, law, and citizenship but the spirit of the cultural community based upon common descent, language, religion, customs, and history. Ethnic nationalism unlike the territorial and civic versions of nationalism conceives of the nation as a genealogical and vernacular cultural community. Whereas civic and territorial conceptions of the nation regard it as a community of shared culture, common, laws and territorial citizenship, ethnic concepts of the nation focus on the genealogy of its members, however fictive; on popular mobilization of the “the folk” on native history and customs, and on the vernacular culture. As a vernacular community of genealogical descent, the ethnic nation seeks to create itself in the image of an ancestral ethnic. In a state based on the idea of a particular ethnic nation, even citizens belonging to a different ethnic group cannot become part of the national grouping. In a state based on the concept of the civic nation, every citizen irrespective of their lineage and ethnic background is part of is a member of the nation. In the 19th century Europe, demand for ethnonational self-determination arose mainly as a protest against large empires and their artificial borders which had led to the imprisonment, oppression, and division of "natural" ethnic nations. They had a new vision where political and ethnic borders would coincide and the natural nation states would assume peace and stability.

Although this national self-determination seemed fine in theory but in practice was difficult to implement. There was no consensus among the scholars on the attributes of nationhood. Even within the same ethnic groups, different attributes of nationhood may be stressed at different times. The doctrine of national self-determination also exposed the problem of minority ethnic nationalities. The ethnic nationalities had become scattered. Even though one assumed that different nationalities would be given statehood, it would still leave a significant number of co-nations outside the state. Thus minorities were dissatisfied. Since ethnic nationalities were scattered strict implementation of the right of national self-determination would require either a great proliferation of new states or massive population migrations causing severe hardship. It would also worsen the plight of the trapped ethnic minorities once the new states were in place. States would ask for absolute loyalty from their ethnic minorities for reasons for state integrity and security. The states would eventually deny ethnic minorities right of self-determination and also increase assimilationist pressure. Such assimilations pressure could lead to discrimination. The existence of trapped ethnic minorities could create a plethora of powerful and destructive secessionist and irredentist conflicts.

The European countries were willing to accept national self-determination in principle but unwilling to extend it to the ethnic communities in their nations or to the colonies as it would be against their self-interest. After the Second World War when the UN system was being created the doctrine of national self-determination was not included in the original draft of the charter. After 1945, The UN used national self-determination to bring about an end to colonies. However, the UN preferred that people in the colonies exercise this right once and for all and wanted to freeze the map of the world.

The Marxist and the western liberals tended to view ethnic nationalism and religious fundamentalism either as epiphenomena, that are expressions of more fundamental group identities. The Marxist predicted the victory of proletariat read less

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Prime Numbers

Shuvham Singhal

I am Currently working as assistant professor at Poornima Group of institution last 3 years. I am teaching...

A prime number (or prime integer, often simply called a "prime" for short) is a positive integer that has no positive integer divisos other than 1 and itself. More concisely, a prime number is a positive integer having exactly one positive divisor other than 1, meaning it is a number that cannot be... read more

A prime number (or prime integer, often simply called a "prime" for short) is a positive integer p>1 that has no positive integer divisos other than 1 and p itself. More concisely, a prime number p is a positive integer having exactly one positive divisor other than 1, meaning it is a number that cannot be factored. For example, the only divisors of 13 are 1 and 13, making 13 a prime number, while the number 24 has divisors 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, and 24 (corresponding to the factorization 24=2^3·3), making 24 not a prime number. Positive integers other than 1 which are not prime are called composite numbers.

While the term "prime number" commonly refers to prime positive integers, other types of primes are also defined, such as the Gaussian primes.

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