An Integrated Approach to the Study of Ethnicity and Its Relevance to Ethiopia

Alemu Asfaw Nigusie


Despite decades old study of ethnicity, scholars have largely failed to answer basic questions that are pertinent to the topic because they study it from a single perspective (primordialism, constructivism, and instrumentalism) and such an isolated study could not fully elaborate the phenomenon. Consequently, as a remedy to this problem, an integrated approach to the study of ethnicity has been formulated by Philip Q. Yang. Thus, the central objective of this paper was to examine this approach and test its relevance to the Ethiopian case, where ethnic identity has been playing a major role since the middle of twentieth century. Scholars in the field of political science have identified the problem of instrumentalization of ethnic identity by political elites and parties for their political gains but have insufficiently analyzed the problem due to overreliance on a single theory. To this effect, primary and secondary data were collected through literature and document review. The integrated approach of ethnicity includes the central arguments of primordialism, constructivism, and instrumentalism and hence is found to be very crucial to understand and explain past and present Ethiopian socio-political systems, their concomitant ethnic policies and the political struggles thereof. This work thus concludes that, with all its limitations, studying such complex and dynamic issue as ethnicity requires adopting an integrated or holistic approach so that one could have a better picture of the issue at hand.

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International Journal of Social Science Studies   ISSN 2324-8033 (Print)   ISSN 2324-8041 (Online)

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