Although the term "ethnicity" is recent, the sense of kinship, group solidarity, and common culture to which it refers is as old as the historical record. Ethnic communities have been present in every period and on every continent, and have played an important role in all societies. The sense of a common ethnicity remains a major focus of identification for individuals even today. Ethnic community and identity are also often associated with conflict, particularly with political struggles in various parts of the world. Yet there is no essential connection between ethnicity and conflict, and in many instances, relations may in fact be peaceful and cooperative.
This Oxford Reader offers explanations for the often contentious nature of ethnicity, its worldwide effects, and the possible means for overcoming conflicts. It includes extracts by all the major contributors to debates on ethnicity, including Weber, Brass, Hechter, and Horowitz, and focuses on ethnic groups in the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa, and North America, as well as other areas.