English title: Approaches to Developing an Improved Cross-National Understanding of Concepts and Terms Relating to Ethnicity and Race

Author(s): Peter J. Aspinall -

Language: English

Type: Journal article

Year: 2007


Investigators from the fields of comparative social and epidemiological research have identified the need for an improved cross-national understanding of the concepts and terms relating to ethnicity and race. Suggestions have included the harmonization in surveys of variables like ethnicity and religion in a comparative European context and an internationally applicable and agreed glossary of terms relating to ethnicity and race. Pleas have been entered for work towards such goals, involving statistical offices and institutions in the European Union and bodies like the World Health Organization and International Epidemiological Association. This article examines how the conceptual bases of this terminology, issues of geographical specificity and the problem of which terms merit recognition impact on these goals. Different approaches to improving our understanding of this terminology in a cross-national context are explored. Given that the meanings of concepts and terms in the field of ethnicity and race invariably can only be understood in their national context of use–which is frequently layered, manifold, subtle and complex–an approach that explores the connotative reach of the different concepts and terms within this context is needed. Functional equivalence is more likely to be achieved by harmonization than the systematization of such knowledge through the economical form of a glossary of synthetic analytical terminology. However, given the socially and psychologically driven nature of ethnicity as a ‘global’ concept, harmonization may only be successful when limited to its multiple dimensions.

Volume: 22

Issue: 1

From page no: 41

To page no: 70

Refereed: Yes

DOI: 10.1177/0268580907070124

Journal: International Sociology

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