What is an Ethnie? (1)

Lets get going with the description of an ethnie

An ethnie is a social system. Physically an ethnie consists of a group of people malse and females. This is shown in figure 2.

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Shot at 2007-07-12

Figure 2 is a schematic diagram of an ethnie. It consist of male and female members. At the centre is the ethnie-elite. These may seen as leaders of the ethnie. Of course figure 2 is just a schematic diagram. It is a simplification of the reality. One of the simplification is geography or the spatial dimension of the ethnie. Obviously it is not necessary for all members of the ethnie to be in the same area or district as may be implied by the diagram.

But in general the importance of geography, land, or in general living space, is important for the development of the ethnie. This can be seen historically in the struggle for land such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Balkan wars and the many wars in Africa and Asia that involves different dimensions of ethnic cleansing.

In addition, geography or space can and do play a role in defining the relationship between mainstream and fringe sub-groups within the ethnie. If all or majority members are living in the same geographical area, this will mean close contact to the centre (ethnie elite) and there fore ethnie members are up to date with the social changes and cultural evolution that happen within the ethnie. But if there is a substantial number of ethnie members that are living in different geographical area, this may mean the loosening of ties and relationships. Such is the case for the so-called overseas Chinese outside of China proper. They have been separated by distance. Of course nowadays people say distance does not matter in modern days. But still this is true only quite recently. And also until quite recently Malaysians can’t even visit China as China is considered as a staunch supporter of the PKM (Partai Komunis Malaya). But those days are over.

Anyway, before I digress too much, coupled with distance and other factors, such as political situation, geography can and do play a role in defining whether members within an ethnie can be considered mainstream or fringe. But nevertheless, I don’t know if I can say to a Chinese in Malaysia or for that matter to the millions of Chinese outside of China that they are fringe Chinese – it might hurt their feelings. To complicate matters more, the conception of the Chinese ethnie is further complicated by the fact that there are numerous ethnies in China. Even within the Han Chinese, there are many groups which may constitute separate ethnies. It is however quite likely that Mao Zedong had demolished a lot of the separateness of these ethnies, especially during the Cultural Revolution. In Malaysia there are many reasons for the amalgamation of the separate Chinese ethnies who can be different in their dialects and even lifestyles (such as the way they cook their foods etc). Anyway, this matter need further research.


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