Ethnic Identities and Hybridity


Ethnic Identity

Ehtnic Identity refers to the fact that people recognise that they share a cultural distinctiveness within a group based on:

  • Common descent - This could be represented by colour, race or other physical characteristics.
  • Geographical Origins - Links with a country of origin are important as ethnic idenitity may involve seeing oneself as 'Pakistani', 'Indian' or 'Irish' first and foremost.
  • History - Members of ethnic cultures may share a sense of struggle and opression, which originate in particular historical contexts such as slavery, colonialism, persecusion etc.
  • Language - As well as speaking English, members of particular groups may speak the language(s) of their country of origin.
  • Religion - For some ethnic minority groups, this is the most important influence on their daily lives. Traditions and rituals normally cultural or religious events, ceremonies and celebrations reinforce a sense of ethnic community and therefore identity. 
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Ethnic Idenity (x2)

When people have an ethnic identity it means that they have a cultural attatchment to others and often a sense of pride. Some white British people feel that they have no ethnicity , and that ethnicity is something that 'others', notably non - white people have.

However, Banton (2000) suggests that in the contemproary UK ethncicity is becoming increasingly recognised as something everyone has, especially given that questions about it are now included in the Census.

Ethnic Identity is something that an individual can achieve and express to others, for example, through the clothes they wear or their religion's values. An ethnic identity can be applied to an individual as a way of labelling them and their culture as being different. This can involce a process of 'othering' where the self is seen in a positive way and anything diffrent is defined in the negative. So, in the case of black and white identities, white people may see black people as the 'other', that is, not white, not being like 'us'.

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Ethnic Identity (x3)

Sometimes ethnic identity is used as a means of resisting racism.

  • Black Identity and black pride may be celebrated as a response to black peoples perceptions of racial exclusion and stereotyping by white people.
  • Jacobson (1997) argues that many young Pakistanis are adopting Islam identies in terms of diet, dress, and everyday routines and practices. She suggests that it is a defensive identity that has developed as a response to racism and social exclusion. Islamic idenity compensates for such marginalisation because it stresses the exclusion of the white excluders by the excluded.
  • Gilroy notes that young Afro - Carribean's often adopt identities based on ethnic history and popular culture to challenge racism and exclusion.
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Hydbridity refers to a mixing of cultures. This can manifest itself in different ways. A good example of this is food and the popularity of the curry house; Chicken Tikka Masala is reportedly England's most popular dish, yet its origins are unclear. Some report is as being imported from bangladesh cusine, others say that it was created by bangladeshi chefs in Brick Lane, who mixed curry with condensed tomato soup to create something acceptable for the english palate. Either way, the fact that all supermarkets stock it and curry houses are found throughout the UK shows how different cultures can mix and create something new. 

However, individuals do not have to have fixed hybrid identities. Back (1996) researched the new hybrid identities and found that they were not fixed. Young people played with different cultural masks, and different styles. Inter - ethnic friendship and marriages mean that groups borrowed ideas from each other and this blurred the distinction between seemingly different ethnic groups. Research by Johal and Bains (1998) focused on what they termed 'dual identities', where, for example, British Asian (Brasians) have a number of different identities depending on who they are with. Johal and Bains suggested that some of these young people can 'code switch'. This involves behaving one way with their peers and another way when with family. This code switching was often based around ethnic issues/conflicts in the home and can be seen in such films as Bend it like Beckham

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