Ethnic identites

1523 words 7 pages
In what ways are Ethnic identities important in contemporary Britain, and to whom, and why?
The concept of ethnic identity calls for definition. The adjective “ethnic” relates to the fact of belonging to a certain human group, as defined by anthropological and cultural features. With such a wide meaning, the word and its derivative “ethnicity” raise issues as to their definition: there is no universally agreed definition on the term ethnicity. “Ethnicity refers to a group or community that is assumed to share common cultural practices and history. Religion, language and territory are all included in the term ethnicity” (Kath Woodward, 2004, p 124). As such, the concept is rather recent, as it appeared in sociological studies late in the
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It is sometimes amusing to see an English person filling a questionnaire when asked “what ethnic group do you belong to?” Similarly, native British people would be surprised to hear that, for sociologists, they are the “indigenous population of Britain”. This goes to show how labelling of the minorities is likely to be in terms of differences compared to the majority. Conversely, members of ethnic minorities will tend to label themselves in such a way as to retain an understanding on what they consider to be the identity they are anxious to preserve. “When we came here we swore we were English because Guyana was British Guiana... when you come here, you discovered it’s a different thing. If you’re English, you have to be white”. The fact that one has to be white to be seen as British is one that is largely shared within the ethnic minority groups, especially within the first generation of immigrates to Britain and this is why many first generation families stress the view that the second generation should hold on to their ethnic identity more than they do. Tariq Modood claims that “New cultural practises, especially to do with family.... have become a feature of British landscape; skin colour, identities, place of origin...counties’ to shape the personal lives and relationships of even British Born individual” ( Modood, 1997)

Meanwhile the “indigenous whites” who make up the ethnic