This map (my first world map in nearly 9 months!) comes from a post on the Washington Post website called “40 Maps that Explain the World.”* While reading the post, I realized how remarkably similar it is to this blog. Atlas’ goal is to explore, and thereby explain, the world; furthermore, it contains (as of this post) 42 maps! This realization (and a friendly reminder from nocturnallyyours) inspired me to make this post. It was quite difficult to choose one map out of the 40 fascinating maps from the Washington Post. After much consideration, I selected this map depicting the level of ethnic diversity found in each country. Darker green shading indicates greater ethnic diversity within a country, while darker orange shading indicates greater homogeneity, i.e. less diversity. It is important to note that the countries of Africa are the most ethnically diverse, and that those of Europe and Australia are the most homogenous. More than any of the others, though, two countries stand out to me: the United States and India. The U.S. attracts immigrants from every corner of the globe, and has been known as a “melting pot” for decades. In spite of its idealistic label, and contrary to my expectations, it is shaded tan on the map, which means that it falls squarely between ethnically diverse and ethnically homogenous. In my worldview, India is incredibly diverse: its people speak a multitude of languages and follow many religions. Still, like the United States, India is shaded tan. This finding suggests that the definition of ethnicity is critical to a successful understanding of this map. A person’s ethnicity is a group with which he or she identifies based on a range of factors, including ancestry, language, religion, and cuisine. Because so many aspects contribute to ethnicity, it is a fluid concept that is very difficult to define. Consider again the United States. Although Americans can trace their ancestry to a long list of ethnicities, over time some of the country’s cultural divisions have disappeared. As a result, the U.S. is less ethnically diverse than a country like Canada, where British, French, Asian, and indigenous ethnicities are still clearly defined. (Of course, many differences remain.)** In the case of India, the determination of ethnicity may not be as dependent on language as in Europe and Africa. Thus, even though Indians from different parts of the country may not speak the same dialect, they may identify with the same ethnic group. This could explain the relative lack of ethnic diversity in India. I hope not only that this post has shown that ethnicity and diversity are incredibly difficult to define, but also that it has shed some light on the complexities of those concepts. Only through further exploration of such issues can we hope to explain the world.
*To read “40 Maps that Explain the World,” simply click on the map!
**For more information about ethnicity in the United States, click on the following link: http://peoplecartographer.tumblr.com/post/37520418077/this-map-is-quite-unusual-for-this-blog-in-that-it.