Ethnos, thede, and race

From Roses, Tulips, & Liberty
The anonymous Allegorical Painting of Two Ladies (c. 1650) was created in mid-17th century England, when the British were just entering the Atlantic slave market.

Ethnos, thede (/θiːd/), and race are distinct anthropological concepts of varying ambiguity used to categorize people based on groups based on a combination of self-identification, descent, customs, appearances, history, location, and/or language. These terms gained their current meanings in the English language during the 19th century, simultaneous with similar developments in other languages such as Dutch (ethnie, diet, and ras).

  • Ethnos (pl. ethne) is the narrowest of the three, referring to a collective which subjectively believe that they share a set of traits, traditions, histories, and behaviors associated with certain institutions and social networks. Their identification with these differentiate them from other social groups around them. Ethne may be interchangeable with the term nation, especially in the context of nationalism.
  • Thede (pl. thedes) is a more general term applied to a network of ethne which share more in common with each other than they do with others. The modern term originated with the Dutch word diet, first used during the colonial period to refer to Netherlanders, Afrikaaners, Amerikaeners, and other related communities collectively. The English cognate of diet, thede, was revived from obsolescence in 1876.
  • Race (pl. races) is a concept that was promulgated by European naturalists and anthropologists during the Enlightenment. In its simplest sense, it is an external identification of as many common physical characteristics in a given group, perhaps taking into account religious, linguistic, and genealogical differences, as possible.

These three concepts are crucial to an individual's social identity within a society as well as the power relations between different states and organizations, as ethnos, thede, and race play important roles in the processes of colonization, migration, and nation-building.

See also