Ethnocentrism

Ethnocentrism is the tendency to believe that one's ethnic or cultural group is centrally important, and that all other groups are measured in relation to one's own. The ethnocentric individual will judge other groups relative to his or her own particular ethnic group or culture, especially with concern to language, behavior, customs, and religion. These ethnic distinctions and sub-divisions serve to define each ethnicity's unique cultural identity.[1]

Contents

Origins of the concept and its study

The term ethnocentrism was coined by William G. Sumner, upon observing the tendency for people to differentiate between the ingroup and others. He defined it as "the technical name for the view of things in which one's own group is the center of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it."[2] He further characterized it as often leading to pride, vanity, beliefs of one's own group's superiority, and contempt of outsiders.[3] Robert K. Merton comments that Sumner's additional characterization robbed the concept of some analytical power because, Merton argues, centrality and superiority are often correlated, but need to be kept analytically distinct.[2]

Anthropologists such as Franz Boas and Bronislaw Malinowski argued that any human science had to transcend the ethnocentrism of the scientist. Both urged anthropologists to conduct ethnographic fieldwork in order to overcome their ethnocentrism. Boas developed the principle of cultural relativism and Malinowski developed the theory of functionalism as guides for producing non-ethnocentric studies of different cultures. The books The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia, by Malinowski, Patterns of Culture by Ruth Benedict and Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead (two of Boas's students) are classic examples of anti-ethnocentric anthropology.

Anthropology

People who are born into a particular culture and grow up absorbing the values and behaviors of the culture will develop patterns of thought reflecting the culture as normal.[4] If people then experience other cultures that have different values and normal behaviors, they will find that the thought patterns appropriate to their birth culture and the meanings their birth culture attaches to behaviors are not appropriate for the new cultures. However, since people are accustomed to their birth culture, it can be difficult for them to see the behaviors of people from a different culture from the viewpoint of that culture rather than from their own.[5]

Examples of ethnocentrism include religiously patterned constructs claiming a divine association like "divine nation", "One Nation under God", "God's Own Country", "God's Chosen People" and "God's Promised Land".[6]

In Precarious Life, Judith Butler discusses recognizing the Other in order to sustain the Self and the problems of not being able to identify the Other. Butler notes 'that identification always relies upon a difference that it seeks to overcome, and that its aim is accomplished only by reintroducing the difference it claims to have vanquished. The one with whom I identify is not me, and that 'not being me' is the condition of the identification. Otherwise, as Jacqueline Rose reminds us, 'identification collapses into identity, which spells the death of identification itself' (146).[7] However, Butler's understanding of Self and Other is Eurocentric itself because she writes that one cannot recognize Self unless it is through the Other. Therefore, Self and Other are limited through a language of binary codes. Considering that language is essential to culture, individuals will know themselves through the result of language plus culture. Dichotomous language is embedded in English and similar languages; however, dichotomous language is not universal. Indeed, there are few dichotomies in many Indigenous and non-European languages (Battiste and Henderson 76).[8] It is by looking into the language of a culture that one will be able to see oneself in relation to one's environment and one's place in the world.

Biology and evolutionary theory

A 2011 paper in PNAS suggested that ethnocentrism may be mediated by the oxytocin hormone. It found that in randomized controlled trials "oxytocin creates intergroup bias because oxytocin motivates in-group favoritism and, to a lesser extent, out-group derogation".[9]

In The Selfish Gene, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins writes that "Blood-feuds and inter-clan warfare are easily interpretable in terms of Hamilton's genetic theory."[10] Simulation-based experiments in evolutionary game theory have attempted to provide an explanation for the selection of ethnocentric-strategy phenotypes.[11]

See also

References

  1. ^ Margaret L. Andersen, Howard Francis Taylor (2006). Sociology: Understanding a Diverse Society. Thomson Wadsworth. ISBN 0534617166. http://books.google.com/?id=LP9bIrZ9xacC&pg=PA67. 
  2. ^ a b Robert King Merton (1996). Piotr Sztompka. ed. On social structure and science. University of Chicago Press. p. 248. ISBN 9780226520704. http://books.google.com/books?id=vQWgLH1fZ2EC&pg=PA248. 
  3. ^ Sumner, W. G. Folkways. New York: Ginn, 1906.
  4. ^ Stanley S. Seidner, Ethnicity, Language, and Power from a Psycholinguistic Perspective. Bruxelles: Centre de recherche sur le pluralinguisme, 1982.
  5. ^ Seidner, Ethnicity, Language, and Power.....
  6. ^ William A. Haviland; Harald E. L. Prins; Dana Walrath; Bunny McBride (2009). The Essence of Anthropology. Cengage Learning. p. 159. ISBN 9780495599814. http://books.google.com/books?id=AmvJ1XtnIQoC&pg=PA159. 
  7. ^ Butler, Judith. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. New York: Verso, 2004.
  8. ^ Battiste, Marie and James Youngblood Henderson. Protecting Indigenous Knowledge and Heritage: A Global Challenge. Saskatoon: Purich publishing, 2000.
  9. ^ De Dreu, Carsten K. W., "Oxytocin promotes human ethnocentrism," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Jan. 10, 2011.
  10. ^ Richard Dawkins (2006). The selfish gene. Oxford University Press. p. 99. ISBN 9780199291151. http://books.google.com/books?id=go0e5sBRznYC&pg=PA99. 
  11. ^ Hammond, R. A.; Axelrod, R. (2006). "The Evolution of Ethnocentrism". Journal of Conflict Resolution 50 (6): 926–936. doi:10.1177/0022002706293470.  edit

Further reading

  • Ankerl, G. Coexisting Contemporary Civilizations: Arabo-Muslim, Bharati, Chinese, and Western. Geneva: INU PRESS, 2000, ISBN 2-88155-004-5
  • Reynolds, V., Falger, V., & Vine, I. (Eds.) (1987). The Sociobiology of Ethnocentrism. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.
  • Salter, F. K., ed. 2002. Risky Transactions. Trust, Kinship, and Ethnicity. Oxford and New York: Berghahn.
  • Seidner, S. S. (1982). Ethnicity, Language, and Power from a Psycholinguistic Perspective. Bruxelles: Centre de recherche sur le pluralinguisme.
  • van den Berghe, P. L. (1981). The ethnic phenomenon. Westport, CT: Praeger.
  • Martineau, H. (1838). "How to Observe Morals and manners". Charles Knight and Co., London.
  • Wade, Nicholas, "Depth of the Kindness Hormone Appears to Know Some Bounds," New York Times, Jan. 10, 2011.

External links


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • ethnocentrism — n. 1. belief in the superiority of one s own ethnic group. [WordNet sense 1] [WordNet 1.5] 2. a tendency to evaluate other people, activities, cultures, etc. primarily from the perspective of one s own as being superior. [PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • ethnocentrism — [eth΄nō sen′triz΄əm, eth΄nəsen′triz΄əm] n. [ ETHNO + CENTR(O) + ISM] the belief that one s own ethnic group, nation, or culture is superior ethnocentric adj. ethnocentrically adv …   English World dictionary

  • ethnocentrism — ethnocentric, adj. ethnocentrically, adv. ethnocentricity /eth noh sen tris i tee/, n. /eth noh sen triz euhm/, n. 1. Sociol. the belief in the inherent superiority of one s own ethnic group or culture. 2. a tendency to view alien groups or… …   Universalium

  • Ethnocentrism — the tendency to look at the world primarily from the perspective of one s own culture. It is defined as the viewpoint that one’s own group is the center of everything (better than all other cultures), against which all other groups are judged.… …   Mini philosophy glossary

  • ethnocentrism — ethnocentric ► ADJECTIVE ▪ evaluating other cultures according to the preconceptions of one s own. DERIVATIVES ethnocentrically adverb ethnocentricity noun ethnocentrism noun …   English terms dictionary

  • ethnocentrism — noun see ethnocentric …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • ethnocentrism — noun /ˈɛθ.nəʊˌsɛn.tɹɪzm̩/ The tendency to look at the world primarily from the perspective of ones own culture …   Wiktionary

  • ethnocentrism — The tendency to evaluate other groups according to the values and standards of one s own ethnic group, especially with the conviction that one s own ethnic group is superior to the other groups. [G. ethnos, race, tribe, + kentron, center of a… …   Medical dictionary

  • ethnocentrism — ethnocentricism …   Dictionary of sociology

  • ethnocentrism — n. tendency to view one s own ethnic group as superior to others, giving preference according to ethnic background …   English contemporary dictionary

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