Social group or category of the population that, in a larger society, is set apart and bound together by common ties of language, nationality, or culture. Ethnic diversity, the legacy of political conquests and migrations, is one aspect of the social complexity found in most contemporary societies. The nation-state has traditionally been uneasy with ethnic diversity, and nation-states have often attempted to eliminate or expel ethnic groups. Most nations today practice some form of pluralism, which usually rests on a combination of toleration, interdependence, and separatism. The concept of ethnicity is more important today than ever, as a result of the spread of doctrines of freedom, self-determination, and democracy. See also culture contact; ethnic cleansing; ethnocentrism; race; racism.
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