Anthropology/group identity


QUESTION: What are the various factors that contribute the construction of group identity? or what are the circumstances under which group identity can lead to violence?


ANSWER: Hi Abdi,

These are two very different questions and both contain a great deal of complexity.  

Group Identity can come in many forms from racial to community to organizational and may even cross these "boundaries".  Typically anthropologists look at this:

1) Close Family
2) extended family
3) neighborhood
4) community
5) town/City
6) area
7) region
8) State
9) part of the country
10) country
11) hemisphere (eastern/western/southern etc...)
12) Earth

But as noted, we may cross over these when we look at organizations, businesses, etc... Each may be a group of its own.  Any subculture is a group of its own.  So Dog Show people, Horse people, 19th street gang, Crypts etc...  

So now to the second question.  What within a "Group Identity" may lead to violence.  If the group has a tendency towards violence then when under stress, may exhibit even more violence.  A family group for instance under stress may show much higher levels of violence then in normal circumstances.  A gang under stress due to change in leadership may turn towards greater internal violence.  This violence may spill out of the group and into the broader community.    

Violence is not inherent in group identity and this can be seen in many groups and of different types.  And I would say that in more than 90% of groups that self identify, there is little to no violence.   

I hope this helps.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: The question of identity is a central one to question of ethnic politics and conflict in the contemporary world. Discuss the various factors that contribute to the construction of a group identity. If possible integrate into the analysis some thoughts on your own group identity. In the process of articulating the factors of group identity discuss the concept of social construction. Also, discuss the circumstances under which group identity can lead to ethnic mobilization and conflict. Can the Rwanda genocide be an example of where ethnic mobilization leads to violence?

I gve you the whole question and I am struggling to answe this question so i can do a research paper for college. Your previous answerr already shed some light

Sent from my iPhone

ANSWER: Hi Abdi,  

This is a highly complex question which can not be easily answered.  Thus the nature of the paper.  Religion is a powerful group identifier and has lead to conflict far more often then tribal conflicts in the 21st century.  Syria is a good example, the Rwandan genocide, the Balkans genocide, world war II in the previous century was one as well.  Any civil war may be an example of this, or it could also be economic as is the case in the Sudan, Eritrea and Timore.   Thus what are some of the constructs of a group identity?

1) family as noted above
2) nationallity
3) religious affiliation
4) economic situation
5) race
6) Company affiliation
7) Organizational affiliations
8) regional affiliation
9) political affiliation (Tory, Republican, Green etc...)
10) Science (chemist, physisit etc...)

As for me and my groups of identity:

1) family
2) anthropologist
3) cross cultural trainer
4) continuous improvement coach
5) volunteer (for several different organizations including Habitat, Food Bank.....)
6) Democrate
7) Women's rights advocate

Among others.....

Social construction is somewhat different from group identity.  Social construction is like an umbrella that covers all of the different groups and beyond.  Social construction may have some elements of group identity as well but only on the broadest sense.  It is closely tied to cultural segmentation in which a broader cultural body may have many sub-cultural contexts which would include different social "groups".  Mobilization wether ethnic or social or cultural in nature generally requires a "flash point".  Such flash points may be religious in nature such as abortion rights in the US or mass migration as in the case of Syria or wealth as in the case of China.  These mobilizations can be caused by violence or can lead to violence.  The partition of India and Pakistan are an example of a movement that lead to violence and that also caused violence.  

I hope that this provides further assistance towards your goal.  

I recommend that you start with an outline using the 10 items above and see if you can use these as starting points.

I"m more  than happy to answer more questions.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


Thank you so much. It helped alot.  Can you please expand the part that talks about the concept of social construction, perhaps an example or tei if you can think about one please. I won't bother you again. Thanks much

Social constructs, are based on both historical as well as contemporary circumstances.  An example would be British society.  This has evolved over two thousand years.  It has incorporated invading people's like the Normans, Romans and many others.  From this mixture developed an evolving language, more or less common view points and beliefs, (not just religious).  There are subdivisions within British society based on economics and class.  And these may be more associated with group identity.

Contemporary influences may include educational, health, ability to travel, economic, racial as well as the traditional historical basis.  National identity is generally tied to these social constructs.

If you have more questions please ask, that is what I'm here for.


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Ralph Salier


Business Anthropologist. Business negotiations in multiple cultures and working with multiple cultures in the business arena. Broad understanding of business practices and business "ethics" in different parts of the world.


25+ years in international procurement and negotiations.


MA Anthropology, Proximics

©2017 All rights reserved.