Although the term 'ethnicity' is recent, the sense of kinship, group solidarity, and common culture to which it refers is as old as the historical record. Ethnic communities have been present in every period and continent, and have played an important role in all societies. The sense of a common ethnicity remains a major focus of identification by individuals. Ethnic community and identity are often associated with conflict, particularly with political struggles in various parts of the world. However, there is no essential connection between ethnicity and conflict, and relations may in fact be peaceful and cooperative. This Oxford Reader includes extracts by all the major contributors to debates on ethnicity, including Weber, Brass, Hechter, and Horowitz. The articles offer explanations for the contentious nature of ethnicity, its worldwide effects, and the possible means for overcoming conflicts.