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Ethnogenesis (from the Greek ethnos , "group of people" or "nation", and genesis , "origin, birth", pl. ethnogeneses) is the process by which a group of human beings comes to be understood or to understand themselves as ethnically distinct from the wider social landscape from which their grouping emerges. This recognition of culture creation has caused some historians to place traditional teleological nation-building narratives into the framework of legend, when they were once uncritically accepted as historical facts.

Passive or active ethnogenesis

Ethnogenesis can occur passively, in the accumulation of markers of group identity forged through interaction with the physical environment, cultural and religious divisions between sections of a society, migrations and other processes, for which ethnic subdivision is an unintended outcome. It can occur actively, as persons deliberately and directly 'engineer' separate identities to attempt to solve a political problem - the preservation or imposition of certain cultural values, power relations, etc. Since the late eighteenth century, such attempts have often been related to language revival or creation of a new language, in what eventually becomes a "national literature".

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, societies challenged by the obsolescence of those narratives which previously afforded them coherence have fallen back on ethnic or racial narratives as a means of maintaining...
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