Ethnic nationalism is a form of nationalism wherein the "nation" is defined in terms of ethnicity. Whatever specific ethnicity is involved, ethnic nationalism always includes some element of descent from previous generations and the implied claim of ethnic essentialism, i.e. the understanding of ethnicity as an essence that remains unchanged over time.
The central theme of ethnic nationalists is that "...nations are defined by a shared heritage, which usually includes a common language, a common faith, and a common ethnic ancestry." It also includes ideas of a culture shared between members of the group, and with their ancestors, and usually a shared language; however it is different from purely cultural definitions of "the nation" (which allow people to become members of a nation by cultural assimilation) and a purely linguistic definitions (which see "the nation" as all speakers of a specific language). Herodotus is the first who stated the main characteristics of ethnicity, with his famous account of what defines Greek identity, where he lists kinship (Greek: ὅμαιμον - homaimon, "of the same blood"), language (Greek: ὁμόγλωσσον - homoglōsson, "speaking the same language"), cults and customs (Greek: ὁμότροπον - homotropon, "of the same habits or life").
The central political tenet of ethnic nationalism is that ethnic groups can be identified unambiguously, and that each such group is entitled to self-determination.
The outcome of this right to self-determination may vary, from calls for self-regulated administrative bodies within an already-established society, to an autonomous entity separate from that society, to a sovereign state removed from that society. In international relations, it also leads to policies and movements for irredentism — to claim a common nation based upon ethnicity.
In scholarly literature, ethnic nationalism is usually contrasted with civic nationalism. Ethnic nationalism bases membership of the nation on descent or heredity—often articulated in terms of common blood or kinship—rather than on political membership. Hence, nation-states with strong traditions of ethnic nationalism tend to define nationality or citizenship by jus sanguinis (the law of blood, descent from a person of that nationality) while countries with strong traditions of civic nationalism tend to define nationality or citizenship by jus soli (the law of soil, birth within the nation-state). Ethnic nationalism is therefore seen as exclusive, while civic nationalism tends to be inclusive. Rather than allegiance to common civic ideals and cultural traditions, then, ethnic nationalism tends to emphasise narratives of common descent.
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