Race and Ethnicity According to Anthropologists Essay

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Race and Ethnicity According to Anthropologists

Examining the ideas and beliefs within ones own cultural context is central to the study of Anthropology. Issues of Race and Ethnicity dominate the academic discourses of various disciplines including the field of Anthropology. Race and Ethnicity are controversial terms that are defined and used by people in many different ways. This essay shall explore the ways in which Anthropologists make a distinction between race and ethnicity and how these distinctions serve as frames for cross-cultural comparison and analysis. It is important to accurately define these coined terms before one is able to make accurate comparisons and distinctions between them, and their relation to the concept of
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The concept of race and the meanings associated with the term have continuously changed and evolved throughout history. Many negative connotations have been associated with the word race and these are evident as one reflects on the historical origins of the term. Commonly the term race is closely connected to the notion of ‘racism.’ Racism is a specific form of prejudice which focuses on physical variations between people. It describes the ideological belief that a person, or groups of people can be classified into ‘races’ which can be ranked in terms of superiority and inferiority (Spoonley, 1988:4). Giddens defines racism as “the attribution of characteristics of superiority or inferiority to a population sharing certain physically inherited characteristics” (1997:584). This supports the idea that racism is a manner of prejudice or animosity against people who have different physical characteristics. It is in virtue of circumstances such as these that Anthropologists find it necessary to make a distinction between the concepts of race and ethnicity.

In contrast to the idea of race, Ethnicity refers to ethnic affiliation, or the “cultural practices and outlooks of a given community of people that set them apart from others” (Giddens, 1997:210). Members of a particular ethnic group see themselves as culturally distinct from other groups of people in a society or culture. There are different characteristics which serve as a way of
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