Race, ethnic origin, nationality

Glossary entry:

Race refers to the social group that people are assigned to or believed to belong to based on their physical characteristics: their skin colour, eye shape, etc. Race is not a scientific concept, in fact biologically there are no different races. However as a cultural construction, race has greatly defined history and it continues to impact till today. Ethnicity or ethnic origin refers to the cultural expression and identification of people of different geographic regions, including their customs, history, language, and religion. Ethnicity is thus something you can learn or acquire, contrary to race. Nationality refers to the nation where you are legally a citizen of, often but not always the nation where you were born. These three concepts are often mixed up, even though they are distinctly different. Especially ethnicity and race are often confused, sometimes leading to the eradication of race as a separate term. A Swedish black girl can feel ethnically Swedish, being born and raised in the country, but still live her very real experiences of being black in Sweden [1], despite the absence of the word race in Swedish.


[1] See also Miri Song (2018) Why We Still Need To Talk About Race, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 41:6, pp. 1131-1145


Petra Van Brabandt & Els Silvrants-Barclay

For Parity and Diversity Commission (PDK) & D-ARCH Dean’s Office