Ethnic, or interethnic, conflict refers to disputes between contending groups who identify themselves primarily on the basis of ethnic criteria and who make group claims to resources on the basis of their collective rights. Ethnic criteria may include perceptions of shared culture, nationality, language, religion, and race. An ethnic group is a collective sharing of a belief of common ancestry, a link with a specific territory, a perception of a shared culture, and a belief in a common destiny. This belief in a common ancestry owes as much if not more to myths than to genetics. To be sure, some ethnic communities may result from consanguineous or kinship ties, but to the greatest extent heritage is a function of belief and not genetic descent. It is inconceivable that somewhere in antiquity there are primordial parents of each ethnic group in the world. Nonetheless, myths of common descent are powerful inducements to ethnic identification. Such myths provide symbols around which elites can focus political, economic, and social activity. They provide emblems and totems representing in-group and out-group membership. Two factors are among the most significant bases of group identity: belief in a historic homeland and the perception or practice of a shared culture. The latter is often expressed as shared language, religion, race, or customs.
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