The end of a millennium provides a rare opportunity to reexamine and assess achievements. In the sociological study of relations between diverse ethnic, racial and minority groups it marks a real, rather than a largely symbolic, watershed. There has been major transformation in the form and significance attached to these relations, both academically and in more popular discourse. Research on ethnic phenomena as disparate as immigrant incorporation, nationalism and indigenous human rights movements have moved from the margins of sociological relevance to mainstream debate and theorization as well as generating wider academic and political interest in a manner which is scarcely matched in other areas of sociology. ‘Ethnicity' is not unproblematic for it has divergent conceptualizations ranging from ‘primordial sentiment' to ‘epiphenomenon'. However, it comes closest to encapsulating the many forms of ethnic phenomena considered in this chapter. All involve individuals by virtue of their membership in diverse ethnic groups. Common to definitions of ethnic groups is that they are social solitary groupings or collectivities which have a shared sense of people hood and a real or putative common ancestry based on distinctive attributes such as territory, nationality, language, religion, and/or physical appearance. When ethnic groups are also seen as socially constructed the nature of ethnic group membership and the processes involved in this, as well as the relations between ethnic groups, become inherently problematic.
[...] The main focus of the present chapter will be the developments of the last decade associated with the increasing international prominence of ethnicity as a phenomenon in social relations and often political life. The conceptual and institutional advances in understanding ethnicity coexist with a diverse range of challenges which confront sociologists working in this area. The changing nature of the sociological and academic enterprise, including especially the call for greater ‘relevance' and accountability, inevitably effects the conceptual and theoretical developments. [...]
[...] While in some cases the demise of the established economic base has led to increasing poverty and disadvantage, elsewhere, as in Scotland or Northern Italy, economic prosperity has been an important factor in the emergence of regional nationalist or independence movements which are often justified by calls for the recognition by the state of the ethnic and national rights of the regional minority. Another major factor associated with the emergence of nationalist movements is the political disequilibrium resulting from the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the former USSR and other East European communist regimes since the late 1980s. [...]
[...] Among some authors the significance of these expanding ranges of influences is examined in relation to the development of transnational identities, and, often, their political and economic implications. Examples range from involvement in nationalist movements as in the former Yugoslavia to the way such identities are associated with the development of economic networks and enterprises as occurs among overseas Chinese communities. Citizenship Citizenship has re-emerged as a major research issue over the last decade. Widely acknowledged as a concept deriving from a Western intellectual tradition, albeit lacking an agreed theory, citizenship has gained considerable prominence in recent discussion of ethnicity, not least because of its potential to bridge debates ranging from moral and normative issues of incorporation and participation to practical questions of legal status and national identity. [...]
[...] Conclusion The ‘rediscovery' of ethnicity, or its ‘internationalization' as a significant social phenomenon has prompted extensive interest in comparative studies at a time when increasing awareness of the problematic nature of ethnicity and its highly varied societal significance cautions against over hasty translation of research and theory from one society to another. Despite the inherent difficulties and need for caution, especially for researchers who focus entirely on one society, there are benefits from examining developments elsewhere, not least to gain an external vantage point for a more informed analysis of the nature of ethnic relations even within one society. [...]
[...] The Period of Transition: 1970s and 1980s By the end of the 1960s the assumptions concerning the transitory or ephemeral nature of ethnicity could no longer be sustained. Race riots in the USA, immigration from former European colonies following independence and efforts to establish multiethnic states and the growing numbers of ‘guest workers' labouring in the expanding European economies, highlighted to industrial societies the continuing reality of their own ethnic diversity. Coinciding with these developments, major paradigm shifts were occurring in sociology as the functionalist model, so closely linked to the assimilation paradigm, was being increasingly questioned. [...]
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