The term "ethnicity" is based on the notion of analogy between place, group and culture. The assignment of individuals to ethnic groups is therefore also, in most cases, associated with an implicit characterisation. In the context of political and social discourses, ethnic attributions often give rise to weighty discourses about segregation which in the media, for example, are expressed in terms such as "parallel society". With its recourse to origin and culture, ethnicity is invariably associated with specific ideas and has a strongly typifying and reductive effect. In the "multiculturalism" model, "cultural diversity" has positive connotations, but it too remains bound to ethnic categories, such that differentiation and classification as "insiders" and "outsiders" are maintained.
In supranational contexts in particular, ethnicisation processes often take the form of political projects which serve to promote recognition of national status vis-à-vis other nations and are associated with certain territorial aspirations.
"Self-ethnicisation" is generally accompanied by claims to a separate and distinct history, values and traditions; in this context, culture is seen as a heritage which is passed on from generation to generation so that ethnicity appears to be a given while heterogeneous, hybrid realities are ignored. Ethnicisation processes are never fully completed, however, nor are they clear or unequivocal; rather, they are integrated into dynamic processes and are subject to local and global influences.
The maintenance of ethnic identity despite spatial distance and changed life circumstances often goes hand in hand with transnational networking practices, a scenario which is encapsulated by Arjun Apparudai in the term "ethnoscape", for example. Recently, re-ethnicisation processes can also be observed, and in combination with youth culture, for example, these often point to self-empowerment strategies.