Ethnicity is a concept referring to a shared culture and a way of life, reflected in a shared common culture, including elements like language, religion, art, music, and literature, and norms, customs, practices, and history.
An ethnic group is a collection of people whose members identify with each other through a common cultural heritage, consisting of a common culture which may also include a shared language or dialect.
Ethnicity is often a major source of social cohesion as well as social conflict. Inter-ethnic relations remain one of the most complex and contradictory problems of the humanity. In its most general form, ethno-cultural differences, which lie at the basis of interethnic relations, constitute one of the many universal patterns of asynchronous cultural development and results of the asynchronous development of countries, regions, continents, peoples, communities, individuals, etc. They are the result of asynchronous adaptation of various groups to the natural, anthropogenic, technopogenic and civilizational conditions of mankind’s development in time-space.
An ethnic conflict is a conflict between two or more contending ethnic groups. While the source of the conflict may be political, social, economic or religious, the individuals in conflict must expressly fight for their ethnic group’s position within society. This final criterion differentiates ethnic conflict from other forms of struggle.
The problem of inter-ethnic relations is due to the tremendous gap in the level of development among different communities. This resulted in rise of political doctrines like: nationalism, chauvinism, ethnocentrism, ethnocracy, racism, fascism, colonialism, negritude, ad infinitum regionalism, secessionism.
A set of background circumstances which impact ethnic conflict are-
- Historical period (agreements reached after the end of the Cold War are more likely to persist, since the actors are less likely to be proxies for rival great powers)
- State tradition (agreements within states with a democratic tradition are more likely to last, since elites have more extended experience of political accommodation)
- Character of underlying cleavage (agreements between groups divided by ideological considerations are more likely to survive than those between contending ethnic groups, since it is easier to establish a middle ground)
- Intensity of conflict (agreements at the end of a low-intensity conflict are more likely to survive, since if conflict intensity has been high the level of continuing mutual suspicion is likely to be greater)
- Duration of conflict (agreements that conclude a long conflict are more likely to endure than those which conclude a short conflict, since protracted war is more likely to highlight the attractions of the political path).
Much ethnic conflict is territorially based. From a geographical perspective, ethnic conflict can be viewed at three scales – the interstate, the intrastate, and the predominantly micro-urban level.