An ethnic group is a group of human beings whose
members identify with each other, through a common
heritage that is real or presumed.
Ethnic identity is further marked by the recognition from
others of a group’s distinctiveness and the recognition
of common cultural, linguistic, religious, behavioral or
biological traits, real or presumed, as indicators of
contrast to other groups.
Ethnicity is an important means through which people
can identify themselves. According to "Challenges of
Measuring an Ethnic World: Science, politics, and real-
ity", a conference organized by Statistics Canada and the
United States Census Bureau (April 1-3, 1992), "Ethnicity
is a fundamental factor in human life: it is a phenomenon
inherent in human experience." However, many social
scientists, like anthropologists Fredrik Barth and Eric
Wolf, do not consider ethnic identity to be universal.
They regard ethnicity as a product of specific kinds of
inter-group interactions, rather than an essential quality
inherent to human groups. Processes that result in the
emergence of such identification are called ethnogenesis.
Members of an ethnic group, on the whole, claim cultural
continuities over time. Historians and cultural anthropolo-
gists have documented, however, that often many of the
values, practices, and norms that imply continuity with
the past are of relatively recent invention.
According to Thomas Hylland Eriksen, until recently
the study of ethnicity was dominated by two distinct de-
bates. One is between "primordialism" and "instrumental-
ism". In the primordialist view, the participant perceives
ethnic ties collectively, as an externally given, even coer-
cive, social bond. The instrumentalist approach, on the
other hand, treats ethnicity primarily as an ad-hoc element
of a political strategy, used as a resource for interest
groups for achieving secondary goals such as, for in-
stance, an increase in wealth, power or status. This
debate is still an important point of referen