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Ethnicity and ethnic groups are hard to define in today’s society due to various factors. There are several
differing definitions in the reading this week from different authors who each have their own set of
characteristics as to what defines an ethnic group. Barth provides four requirements for an ethnic group;
biological reproduction over several generations, communication, shared values and identification from
within and outside groups (Lane & Ersson 2005, 76). In the same reading, Smith focused his criterion on a
perceived history shared among the group (Lane & Ersson 2005, 77). Lane and Ersson break their definition
down even further to stating only a shared history and language are required to make up an ethnic group
(2005, 75). In just one reading there were three different examples of what defined an ethnic group and each
of the authors point out how difficult it can be to determine an ethnic group from any other combined group of
peoples in an area. Based on these definitions, a religious group or a regional tribe would all fit the definition
of an ethnic group. When you start to look at nations and states and the ethnic groups within them, defining an
ethnic group becomes even more difficult. The difference between a nation and an ethnic group can be as
little as a physical connection to a territory (Lane & Ersson 2005, 82).
According to Mueller, the banality of ethnic war means that ethnic war doesn’t really exist. Mueller’s argument
is that because ethnic conflicts are generally not everyone versus everyone and neighbor versus neighbor, it is
not really ethnic war (2000, 42). Mueller uses several examples, but his example of the conflict between the
Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda is the only one that he claims to come close to an actual ethnic war. He
illustrates that most of these ethnic conflicts are actually perpetuated by a certain group or state and carried
APUS CLE : IRLS300 B001 Win 20 : Forums 2/20/20, 5’58 PM
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out by criminal groups or mercenaries and most common people turn a blind eye towards the conflict (Mueller
2000, 43). While I agree with him that these conflicts are not fought for the most part by your average citizen,
they are still derived off a prejudice or bias of one ethnic group against another and should be considered
ethnic wars. These citizens, by ignoring the fighting and not actively working to stop it, are also complicit in
the fighting and are helping push their group’s agenda against the other.
Lane, Jan-Erik, and Ersson, Svante. 2005. Culture and Politics : A Comparative Approach. Farnham: Routledge.
Accessed February 19, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Mueller, John. “The Banality of “Ethnic War”.” International Security 25, no. 1 (2000): 42-70. Accessed February
18, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/2626773.
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