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Articles in Ethnicity

The Paradoxical Position of Bahia in the Brazilian National Imagination

By Martin W. Lewis | November 30, 2022 |

But the position of Bahia in Brazil’s national imagination is more complicated still. The state is also celebrated for many of its cultural practices that have spread to the rest of the country, centered on music, dance, religion, and cuisine. Such Afro-Brazilian cultural features as samba, candomblé, and capoeira are associated with Bahia but are now often viewed as essential aspects of Brazil itself. On the map of Brazilian regional stereotypes, Bahia is also noted as the land of samba. Many writers have remarked on Bahia’s paradoxical position

Amazonian Deforestation, Support for Bolsonaro, and the Roraima Mystery

By Martin W. Lewis | November 17, 2022 |

In the 2022 Brazilian presidential election, the Amazonian region was strikingly divided, as is clearly visible on the Globo map posted below. (I have added an oval and two terms on the map to mark Roraima and the Amazonian region.) Most municipalities (similar to U.S. counties) here strongly supported one candidate or the other. Bolsonaro’s zone of support lies to …

The Ethnic Roots of the War in Ethiopia and the Paradox of Tigrayan Ethnic Identity

By Martin W. Lewis | October 26, 2022 |

Despite such cross-border ethnic ties, in the current conflict Eritrea is closely allied with the Ethiopian government against Ethiopia’s Tigrinya-speaking population. Eritrea has militarily occupied a small slice of Ethiopia’s Tigray Region and has reportedly attacked local people with brutality. No evidence of any pan-Tigrinya-speaking ethnic solidarity is readily available.

Iran’s Kurdish Population: Anti-Regime in the Northwest; Pro-Regime in the Northeast

By Martin W. Lewis | October 14, 2022 |

The relative conservatism of Iran’s northeastern Kurds is an interesting phenomenon that has received little attention in the English-language literature. I can only wonder whether Iranian scholars, pundits, and political activists have examined it.

Tatarstan: A “Hostage of Freezing Relations between Russia and Turkey”?

By Asya Pereltsvaig | February 4, 2016 | 4 Comments

[Many thanks to Ekaterina Lyutikova for most helpful discussions of some of the issues discussed in this post, as well as for the photos, some of which are used as illustrations below. I’m also grateful to Martin W. Lewis for helpful discussions and edits and for modifying the Wikipedia map of Percentage of Ethnic Tatars, used below.]

Tatarstan has not been …

Valencia and the Països Catalans Controversy

By Martin W. Lewis | October 13, 2015 | 7 Comments

Five days before the recent regional elections in Catalonia, the Archbishop of Valencia, Antonio Cañizares, gained attention and generated controversy by urging Catholics to “pray for Spain and her unity” while also arguing that “Spain is bleeding out” and that “there is no moral justification for secession.” It is not surprising that such sentiments would be voiced by the Archbishop …

Val d’Aran: The Catalonian Exception

By Martin W. Lewis | October 9, 2015 | 3 Comments

As the previous post noted, the rural areas of Catalonia generally supported pro-independence political parties in the 2015 regional election, whereas most urban areas did not. There are, however, several exceptions to his generalization. The most striking one is the comarca (“county”) of Val d’Aran, located in the extreme northwestern portion of Catalonia. With a population of 9,993 scattered over …

Mapping Chile’s Indigenous Population

By Martin W. Lewis | July 28, 2015 | 2 Comments

(Note: This post concludes the recent GeoCurrents series on regional differences in Chile)
One of the most interesting tables found in the Wikipedia article on “Ranked Lists of Chilean Regions” is that of the indigenous population. According to the 2013 Casen Survey, nearly 10 percent of Chileans identify themselves as belonging to an indigenous group, a significant increase over earlier assessments. …

Turkey’s Leftwing Peoples’ Democratic Party and the Kurdish Question

By Martin W. Lewis | June 26, 2015 | One Comment

The new, leftwing Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) did relatively well in the 2015 Turkish election, taking 13 percent of the vote nationwide and sending 80 representatives to the Turkish Parliament. As noted in the previous post, the HDP’s main area of support is the Kurdish-speaking southeast, where it was the clear majority party. Its overwhelming victory in such provinces as …

Michael Izady’s Amazingly Detailed Map of Ethnicity in Syria (and the Syrian Armenians)

By Martin W. Lewis | October 26, 2014 | 6 Comments

Most maps that show the distribution of ethnic groups within particular countries are relatively simple, depicting a few discrete populations within large, contiguous blocks of territory. The distinguishing characteristics of such groups are rarely specified. A good example of such a useful yet overly simplified map is the Washington Post’s portrayal of Syria posted here. This map reduces the complex …

My Error on Ukraine’s Political Divisions

By Martin W. Lewis | October 15, 2014 | 13 Comments

Several months ago, I posted an article and a map on GeoCurrents in which I divided Ukraine into a “nationalist” region and a “Russian-oriented” region. In retrospect, it seems that most of the area that I had designated as “Russian-Oriented Ukraine” does not actually fit that category. Despite the fact that a few pro-Russian demonstrations have occurred in a number …

The Sochi Olympics and the Circassians: A Media Failure?

By Martin W. Lewis | February 7, 2014 | 33 Comments

When lecturing on the Caucasus last fall, I asked my Stanford students if any of them had ever heard of the Circassians. Out of a class of roughly 100 students, two raised their hands. I then told that class that the Circassians had once been an extremely well known if often misunderstood ethnic group, and I predicted that by February …

Controversies over Ethnicity, Affirmative Action, and Economic Development in Malaysia

By Martin W. Lewis | September 20, 2013 | 2 Comments

Few issues are more controversial in Malaysia than the country’s National Development Policy, particularly its extensive “affirmative action” provisions that provide economic and social advantages for the majority (61%) indigenous population (“Bumiputeras”) at the expense of the Chinese and Indian communities. Dating back to the early 1970s, this policy has resulted in significant economic gains for the Malay community, but …

Regional and Ethnic Patterns in the 2013 Iranian Presidential Election

By Martin W. Lewis | June 28, 2013 | 2 Comments

The recent Iranian presidential election revealed some interesting geographical patterns. The election itself seems to have been reasonably free, although it was undermined by the previous disqualification of reformist candidates. Hassan Rouhani, widely viewed as the most moderate and pragmatic of the six candidates, won election handily. As can be seen in the Wikipedia map posted here, Rouhani took a …

Xinjiang, China: Ethnicity and Economic Development

By Martin W. Lewis | April 22, 2013 | 7 Comments

An impressive map of China’s per capita GDP by prefecture, reposted here, appeared in late 2012 on the website Skyscraper City, posted by user “Chrissib” Cicerone.  According to the map, the two poorest parts of China are in southern Gansu province, an area demographically dominated by Han Chinese, and in southwestern Xinjiang, an area demographically dominated by Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking, …

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