erm usage is a continual source of disagreement and debate in the academic community. What words or phrases best capture what we are trying to convey? How do we conceptualize our ideas and theories in a manner that not only makes sense to ourselves, but to the people we are talking to as well? Without agreement on term usage any discussion becomes difficult, but in a field as interdisciplinary and geographically unbounded as that of migration and ethnicity studies the challenge to find common language seems particularly daunting.

On this page we have collected some discussions and suggested readings on terms associated with the study of migration and ethnicity. Note that these threads deal mostly with general terminology in past and present usage. For discussions dealing more specifically with terms denoting group identity see our identity issues page.


Caste and race

1) What are the promising sides of linking caste and race. How has this analogy played a role in comparative historical scholarship on racial hierarchies?
2) What are the hazards of this analogy. How has recent historical scholarship borne on the relative importance of modern ideologies of biological determinism in the maintenance of racial hierarchies and caste structures?

H-Ethnic thread

When did "ethnic group" rather than "race" come into use, either academic or popular?

H-Ethnic members suggest a few readings.


Does immigration with a specific destination, such as to the United States, constitute a diaspora? Is there such a thing as the Irish diaspora, Italian diaspora, or German diaspora? Does the word connote victimization, or some other aspect of a group identity or mentalite?

H-Asia thread

H-Ethnic thread

Is diaspora less a sub-category of migrant community and more a subjective understanding of the experience of migration? Response to H-ethnic re John Radzilowski's review of The Penguin Atlas of Diasporas by Gerard Chaliand and Jean-Pierre Rageau.

H-Ethnic thread

Some recommended readings

Are there studies that problematize in a more abstract way the relations between nation- states and diasporas; how the existence of these communities conflict with our traditional idea about the nation-state and what efforts sending states make to deal with this?

H-Ethnic answers

Melting Pot

What is the origin and original meaning of the term "melting pot"?

H-Ethnic answers.

Model Minority

What is the origin and original meaning of the term "model minority"?

H-Ethnic replies and suggests readings.


Can anyone define "pluralism" and "diversity" and give the difference implied in the meanings of the two terms?

H-Ethnic replies.


Is regionalism related to ethnicity?

H-Etnic response