chapter  8
34 Pages

From Ethnic Conflict to Genocide

What does it mean to be Italian-American, or Swiss German, or Yoruba, or Azeri? These labels, used to delineate groups of people from each other all over the world, are actually ethnic identities. Ethnic groups have cultural, religious, and linguistic commonalities, as well as a shared view that the group has a common origin or a unique heritage or birthright (Smith, 1981; Young, 1976). As Rothschild (1981) explains, ethnic groups are “collective groups whose membership is largely defined by real or putative ancestral inherited ties, and who perceive these ties as systematically affecting their place and fate in the political and socioeconomic structures of their state and society” (p. 9). Ethnic groups are considered exclusive rather than inclusive: Outsiders cannot join an ethnic group with which they do not share a common heritage. For example, a person from Zimbabwe could move to India, work, vote in national elections, and speak Hindi, becoming part of the Indian nation, but could never be accepted as an ethnic Indian, because that person does not possess a common ancestral heritage with other ethnic Indians.