Understanding of Races and Ethnicities

Races and Ethnicities

In recent years, so much has been written about the national problem, that, it seems, there is nothing unknown in this area, and all concepts are already scientifically studied. This deep delusion is supported by an abundance of empirical material, accumulated as a result of the description of inter-ethnic interactions. It seems that the truth lies directly on the surface, but the study of races, ethnicities, nations and so on especially concerns such a problem as inter-ethnic conflicts.

A notion of the race is one of the most complex concepts of sociology, which is largely due to the discrepancy between its use in everyday life and its scientific justification. Today, many people believe that it is erroneous to subdivide people into biologically diverse races. This should not be surprising, given the numerous attempts on the part of scientists to create a classification of humans of the world on the basis of the race. Some authors identified four or five major races, while others claimed that at least three dozen races do exist. Scientific theories of the race appeared in the late XVIII – early XIX centuries and they were used to justify the social order that time. Many representatives of the social sciences agree that the race is nothing more than an ideological means, the use of which in the scientific community contributes to the perpetuation of the widespread opinion that “the race” has a biological justification. Other scholars disagree with this and argue that the race as a concept makes sense for many people, even if it has lost its biological basis. In their view, for the sociological research, the race remains a necessary, although controversial, notion.

In the biological sciences, the race is understood as the community of a population. A population is a group of individuals featured a certain stable set of characteristics. Individuals interact with each other, giving productive offspring and live on a common territory. In relation to the human being, there are several definitions of race and population, although their meanings are very close. The most common opinion in the modern science is the following: a race is a large group of people who share a physical type and the origin, which is associated with a certain territory. A population is understood as the totality of individuals belonging to the same race, which can constantly mix with each other and have one territory. The difference between the race and the population is related to the fact that the size of the population is much smaller, it takes up less territory.

A race also consists of many populations that are able to unrestrictedly mix with each other. The limitation of mixing is explained only by the presence of insulating barriers, including those with large distances.

The ethnicity is a set of characteristic cultural features that distinguish one ethnic group from another. The ethnicity (people, nationality) refers to the social divisions of the mankind. The ethnicity is a historically stable set of people on a certain territory, which have a common culture, language, psyche and self-consciousness, reflected in the self-identity. All three notions: population, race, and ethnicity have a very important common feature: each of them has a certain habitat. This community contributes to the unity of the gene area, culture, and language.

Therefore, it is sometimes possible that physical types coincide with the characteristics of an ethnicity. There is a certain correspondence between the great races and larger linguistic units. For example, most representatives of the Caucasian race speak languages of the Indo-European and Semito-Hamitic groups, and most of the Mongoloids speak languages of the Sino-Tibetan group. However, there is an evident connection between the physical features of the population, on the one hand, and language and culture, on the other. Most ethnic groups have a complex anthropological or racial characteristics, many ethnicities are anthropologically polymorphic, and along with this, different peoples can belong to the same anthropological type. As the interdisciplinary study of the population around the world shows that the coincidence of cultural, linguistic and physical traits is a very rare phenomenon. It can arise as a result of some historical or natural reasons, primarily social or geographical isolation. The formation, development, and existence of races and ethnic groups are subject to different sciences. The main difference between the ethnicity and the race relies on the fact that races are studied by the biology, and ethnicities – by the social sciences.

As the study of the peoples of the world shows, the appearance of ethnic groups does not occur by the will of people, but in the course of an objective historical process. At the same time, the formation of ethnicities develops under the influence of various factors that can have an intra-ethnic, inter-ethnic and extra-ethnic features. In this regard, an ethnicity is a complex formation, each of which simultaneously possesses both common properties with other similar entities and specific features that distinguish each of them from the majority or even from all other ethnicities. In the aspect of the ethnic identity, the foundations of an identity become important. In the ethnology, there are three types of grounds for the ethnic identity: generative mechanisms, community features, and conditions for the identity development.

If an ethnicity is characterized by the stability and reproducibility of cultural traits, the process of self-awareness is important for the nation by combining new and traditional elements. Thus, the main value of an ethnic group belongs to a stable group, while the nation seeks to reach a new level of development. In this way, the nation is the highest form of an ethnicity. If the existence of ethnic groups can be traced in the course of the entire world history, the period of the formation of nations has become in the New and even the Newest Time. Often the decisive factor in the allocation of ethnic minorities is physical differences or the color of the skin. The race and ethnicity definitions and distinctions are rarely neutral: they are usually associated with an unequal position in relation to the wealth and power, as well as they lead to the antagonism between groups of the population.