Re: Ethnicity vs. Race

ralph ambrose (
28 Apr 1995 08:57:52 GMT

In <> (Gil Hardwick)
>In article <3nfil4$>, ralph ambrose
( writes:
>>I think Vincenzo has a lagitimate question here. My social
>>anthropology instructor couldn't give me much of an answere when I
>>asked a similar question years ago. The lack of a serious response
>>be due to the fact that "race" and "ethnicity" are often poorly
>>defined. Even when they are well defind it is hard to abandon the
>>groupings of people- we simply rename them in a slightly less
>>offensive, but no more accurate manner. I feel that these terms
>>deserve serious reflection and critical evaluation of how they are
>>currently used.
>The reason your instructor was unable to give you much of an answer
>is because all your definitions will come unstuck in a big way the
>moment you venture forth into the real world to do your fieldwork.
>We fail to take such questions seriously for good reason; it is the
>work of anthropology to observe the dynamic process of creating and
>changing labels to reflect the dynamics of the society, rather than to
>ponder the labels as such.

However, even anthropologists create and use labels. Even
anthropologists must define the group they are studying. If the method
we anthropologists use for naming these groups is a cause of fallacy in
our interpretations of the "dynamics of society," then I feel that
these labels, because they are a source of error, deserve evaluation.

>To wit; we are anthropologists, not etymologists. Maybe the query can
>be posted to a more relevant newsgroup if you want a serious argument
>over words.

Sorry to offend, I realize that I may have accused you and your work of
being limited in value, or outright useless. But if you do not engage
in defining cultural groups by biological traits, then you have not
committed the fallacy. If the shoe fits wear it.


It seems to me that the word "ethnic" has a particular connotation in
Australia with which I, as an American, am unfamiliar. I tend to avoid
the word "society" (I do not find it to be very useful and meaningful
to my discussions) preferring "culture" or often "ethnic group." Some
of our disagreement may simply be semantic. For the sake of clarity,
let us continue with this issue... on this news group.