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Ways in Which Race & Ethnicity Relate to Culture

Examining the ideas and beliefs within ones own cultural context is central to the study of Anthropology. Issues of Race and Ethnicity dominate the academic discourses of various disciplines including the field of Anthropology. Race and Ethnicity are controversial terms that are defined and used by people in many different ways. This essay shall explore the ways in which Anthropologists make a distinction between race and ethnicity and how these distinctions serve as frames for cross-cultural comparison and analysis. It is important to accurately define these coined terms before one is able to make accurate comparisons and distinctions between them, and their relation to the concept of culture. This essay attempts to produce accurate definitions of the concepts of race, ethnicity and culture, and the reasons why Anthropologists discredit the nature of particular views of these notions within Anthropological study. To create a deeper understanding of the distinction between racial and ethnic relations within the New Zealand cultural context, case studies and theories between the Maori and Pakeha population will be drawn upon.

The idea of ‘race’ is a problematic concept in various academic fields. In the discipline of Anthropology, the definition of this term carries much controversy. The concept of race that many people hold is in a sense, a social construct that changes amongst different cultures, one could look at different cultures to see racial definition as a cultural phenomenon in action (Kottak, 2000:139). King supports this idea that races are not established by a set of natural forces, rather they are products of human perception, “Both what constitutes a race and how one recognises a racial difference are culturally determined” (1981:156). Cashmore provides a brief definition of race as “a group of persons connected by common origin” (1988:235). However, Cashmore goes on to argue that the terminology of race has been used to reflect changes in the understanding of physical and cultural differences (1988:235). Cornell and Hartman argue the characteristics that constitute a definition for the concept of race are complex. The authors claim that race can be categorised in social and physical terms. Race is a “human group defined by itself or others as distinct by virtue of perceived common physical characteristics that are held to be inherent… a group of human beings socially defined on the basis of physical characteristics” (1988:24). The concept of race and the meanings associated with the term have continuously...

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